|Re:||Implementation of the Subscriber Carrier Selection Changes Provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996; Policies and Rules Concerning Unauthorized Changes of Consumers' Long Distance Carriers, First Order on Reconsideration, CC Docket No. 94-129.|
In this Order on Reconsideration, the Commission has modified the framework it will use to combat slamming in two important respects, both of which I support. First, it has modified its re-rating policy to comport with section 258(b)'s directive that a slamming carrier will be liable to a preferred carrier "in an amount equal to all charges paid" by the subscriber. 47 U.S.C. § 258(b). Departing from its previous approach, which required the preferred carrier to refund to the consumer any overpayment the consumer may have paid the slamming carrier, the new approach permits the preferred carrier to keep the full amount of charges paid by the subscriber to the slamming carrier. And, to protect the consumer who has paid the slamming carrier more than he otherwise would have paid his preferred carrier, the Order requires the slamming carrier to remit to the authorized carrier a payment that reflects the amount of the consumer's overpayment, which the authorized carrier will then convey to the consumer. I endorse this modification to our re-rating rules, which I believe are now consistent with section 258's statutory mandate. Second, I agree with the Commission's decision to give State commissions the option of assuming primary responsibility for resolving consumer slamming complaints.
As I explained in dissent from the previous ruling in this docket, however, I do not agree with the Commission's complete absolution of consumers from liability for services provided in the first 30 days after being slammed. In my view, there is no basis in the statute for this approach, and it is at odds with the policy that Congress enacted in section 258. Slamming harms not only the consumer, but also the preferred carrier, whose customers are unlawfully taken away. Section 258 is aimed at compensating preferred carriers for this harm, and it is structured to give the preferred carrier a strong incentive to police against slamming, by making the slamming carrier liable to the preferred carrier. Absolving consumers from liability for services provided by the slamming carrier will tend to discourage the authorized carrier from enforcing the slamming provisions, a result that is at odds with the statute's plain intention. I therefore dissent from those aspects of this order that preserve the subscriber absolution rules.