Swamped by consumer complaints, federal regulators plan to adopt tougher rules against switching customers’ long-distance companies without their knowledge, a practice known as “slamming.”
The Federal Communications Commission, possibly as early as today, plans to act in the area where complaints have been on the rise: long-distance companies’ use of contests, prize giveaways, checks and other promotions to lure new customers.
The FCC receives more than 700 complaints a month in this area. “It is the No. 1 complaint category at the commission,” said Kathleen Wallman, chief of the FCC’s Common Carrier Bureau.
In many of these cases, regulators say, people are unaware that by signing a contest form or consenting to a charitable donation they have agreed to switch to another longdistance company.
The biggest change, according to FCC officials, would require longdistance companies to provide consumers a piece of paper, separate from promotional material, authorizing a change in service.
For checks, the authorization form would have to be clearly and prominently marked on the front and the back of the check, according to longdistance company attorneys.