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Long-Distance Tactics Get Slammed

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.

Tags: telephone