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Federal Communications Commission
Washington, D.C. 20554
In the Matter of File No. EB-10-TC-467
VoiceNet Telephone, LLC NAL/Acct. No.: 201132170019
Apparent Liability for Forfeiture FRN: 0010943694
NOTICE OF APPARENT LIABILITY FOR FORFEITURE
Adopted: June 7, 2011 Released: June 16, 2011
By the Commission:
1. In this Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture ("NAL"), we find
that VoiceNet Telephone, LLC ("VoiceNet" or "Company") has apparently
willfully and repeatedly violated section 201(b) of the Communications
Act of 1934, as amended ("Communications Act" or "Act"), by "cramming"
monthly charges for its dial-around long distance service on
consumers' local telephone bills without authorization of any kind
from them. Over a twelve-month period, VoiceNet billed as many as
17,384 consumers monthly, but no more than 20 consumers (or 0.1
percent) ever actually used its service. Based upon our review of the
facts and surrounding circumstances, we find that VoiceNet is
apparently liable for a proposed forfeiture in the amount of three
million dollars ($3,000,000).
2. Cramming, the practice of adding charges to a customer's local
telephone bill without the customer's authorization, results in
significant consumer harm. Charges can often range from $2.99 to as
much as $19.99 per month, and can go undetected by consumers for many
months or longer because they are not generally disclosed clearly or
conspicuously on the bill. The cramming entity can be the customer's
own local exchange carrier ("LEC") or an unaffiliated third-party such
as VoiceNet, in the instant case. The charges can be for additional
telephone services, voice mail and similar services, or for other
unrelated products and services such as chat lines, diet plans, and
3. The Enforcement Bureau ("Bureau") began its investigation of VoiceNet
on September 23, 2010, by issuing a letter of inquiry to the Company
requesting information and documents relating to its charges for long
distance service. In its initial response, dated November 8, 2010,
VoiceNet represented, among other things, that it provides domestic
interexchange telecommunications service on a resale basis through two
"dial-around" service plans: the More Minutes Plan, which offers 332
minutes of domestic interexchange calling per month for $12.95, and
the More Minutes Plus Plan, which provides 383 minutes of domestic
interexchange calling per month for $14.95. VoiceNet also charges
consumers monthly a maximum billing fee of $3.95 and applicable
Universal Service Fund charges.
4. VoiceNet's process for billing consumers involves three parties:
VoiceNet; its billing aggregator, Billing Solutions Group, Limited
d/b/a Billing Concepts ("Billing Concepts"); and the LEC that issues
the bill to the consumer. Billing Concepts uses the name "USBI" in
billing for long distance services. The LEC is compensated by Billing
Concepts for placing the charges on the consumers' bills; Billing
Concepts is paid by VoiceNet to manage billing requests and payments
between the LEC and VoiceNet; and VoiceNet ultimately receives the
money collected from the consumers who pay the charges. Generally,
carriers supply only a consumer's telephone number and the amount to
be charged when directing the LEC to place the charge on the
consumer's telephone bill. Proof of consumer authorization is not
provided or required.
5. VoiceNet markets its service exclusively on the Internet, using
banners and webpages posted on various Internet sites. Online
enrollment forms used to sign up customers allow for the input of the
consumer's first name, last name, address, email address, home
telephone number, and date of birth. Below the enrollment form is a
will receive monthly recurring charges on his or her local telephone
bill until the plan is cancelled.
6. As part of its investigation, the Bureau examined more than sixty
complaints that had been filed by consumers about VoiceNet's service.
These included ones that had been filed not only with the FCC, but
also with state regulatory authorities, the Better Business Bureau, or
with VoiceNet directly. All of the complainants contended that
VoiceNet had charged them for service without their authorization.
7. These complaints notwithstanding, VoiceNet claims that it has "strict
policies and procedures for verifying all service requests prior to
activating and billing any customer account." According to VoiceNet,
it "performs a series of tests to verify the enrollment information
provided by the potential customer." The Company states that these
procedures include validating enrollment information through outside
third-party database vendors."
8. VoiceNet responded to consumer complaints with one of four different
letters providing different explanations to consumers about how
VoiceNet purportedly verified their enrollment. In one, the consumer
is told that his or her first or last name was accurately matched with
the address and telephone number provided. In the second, the consumer
is told that his or her name was accurately matched with the address
and telephone number provided and that the IP address used at sign-up
passed VoiceNet's validation process and fell within the 100 mile
radius of the address. The third letter says nothing about the address
and telephone number matching, but notes that the IP address passed
the Company's validation process and fell within the 100 mile radius
of the enrollment address. This letter also provides the IP address
used to sign up for service, and recommends that the complainant
contact the Internet service provider of that address to determine who
fraudulently used his or her telephone number during the sign-up
process. The fourth letter says nothing about the address, telephone
number, or IP address but provides the sign-up date and time and the
IP address used during the sign-up, and recommends that the
complainant contact the Internet service provider of that address to
determine who fraudulently used the customer's telephone number during
the sign-up process.
9. VoiceNet states that following enrollment, it sends customers welcome
messages via email and postal mail, using the email and postal
addresses provided on the enrollment forms. The consumer is not
required to confirm that the emails were received or to otherwise
respond to the emails before VoiceNet begins charging for the service.
A. Violation of Section 201(b) of the Act
10. Section 201(b) of the Act states, in pertinent part, that "[a]ll
charges, practices, classifications, and regulations for and in
connection with [interstate or foreign] communication service [by wire
or radio], shall be just and reasonable, and any such charge,
practice, classification, or regulation that is unjust or unreasonable
is hereby declared to be unlawful...." The Commission has found that
the inclusion of unauthorized charges and fees on consumers' telephone
bills is an "unjust and unreasonable" practice under section 201(b).
11. We find that VoiceNet has willfully and repeatedly placed, or caused
to be placed, charges on consumers' telephone bills for services the
consumers did not request or authorize. As indicated above, each of
the more than sixty consumer complaints that the Bureau has reviewed -
whether they were filed with the FCC, state regulatory authorities,
the Better Business Bureau or with VoiceNet directly - contends that
VoiceNet charged consumers for service without their authorization.
The complainants consistently state they did not sign up for
VoiceNet's service, did not have any contact with VoiceNet prior to
discovering the charges, and in most cases, do not even know the
person whom VoiceNet alleges authorized the service. Moreover, many of
the complainants observed that they had long distance (often
unlimited) service with another carrier and therefore would have no
need to pay for additional service with VoiceNet.
12. For instance, Complainant Bateman alleged that VoiceNet had been
cramming long distance charges on his telephone bill since March 2009.
As Mr. Bateman observed, neither the name, address, nor email address
of the person "authorizing" the service was associated with his
telephone number. In his letter to VoiceNet, Mr. Bateman explains:
Your purported "authorization" for billing me is an online application,
purportedly filled out by a "Jack Nelson" (firstname.lastname@example.org) of 127
Fairfax Street, Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. ...
A quick internet search reveals that there is no Jack Nelson in Berkeley
Springs, West Virginia. It further reveals that email@example.com is
a non-working email address. It also reveals that 127 Fairfax Street is
the address of the Berkeley Springs Chamber of Commerce.
Moreover, had you called the telephone number you would have also learned
it was not assigned to "Jack Nelson." If you had contacted Verizon, the
service provider, you would have also learned that the billing address for
the number was Washington, DC, not Berkeley Springs, WV.
13. Mr. Bateman's experience with VoiceNet is far from unique. Complainant
Hudson alleged that he found third-party charges on his telephone bill
from VoiceNet and Norristown Telephone. Mr. Hudson explains, "[w]hen I
looked over the Voicenet application, which I never applied for, I saw
that someone used my phone number, a false name and a different
address. . . . Apparently Voicenet never called the phone number to
verify the name and address on the application. I called the tax
office and found out that the taxes for that address . . . [were]
listed in the name of Robert Floyd, which is also different from the
name on the application."
14. In some cases, the consumers who were signed up for VoiceNet's
services were surprised to find out that the authorization form they
had allegedly provided was over the Internet because they do not own
computers. For example, Complainant Smith, in his complaint filed with
the North Carolina Attorney General's office, observes, "I found that
I had been charged for [a] long distance company that I don't do
business with. I have long distance service with CenturyLink already.
Service was said to be added via Internet. I don't have a computer."
15. The complainants' contention that VoiceNet "crammed" charges for its
dial-around long distance service on their bills is corroborated by
the fact that, between March 2010 and February 2011, VoiceNet placed
charges on a total of over 150,000 monthly telephone bills, knowing
that just 20 consumers were using the service at any one time. The
number of consumers VoiceNet billed per month during this period
fluctuated from 17,384 to 9,056; however, just 20 consumers (or 0.1
percent) were recorded ever using the service - compelling evidence
that few if any of the consumers being billed had actually ordered
service or were aware that they were being charged for it.
16. To the extent it actually uses them, VoiceNet's validation and
verification processes are clearly inadequate to confirm that the
person who "enrolled" in one of its plans, i.e., the one whom VoiceNet
will charge for service, in fact authorized the service. As indicated,
VoiceNet asserts that one of the ways it confirms customer
authorization is to verify that the IP address used to sign up for
service is within 100 miles of the telephone customer's billing
address. As Complainant Smith observed, however, this process "doesn't
validate anything other than someone entered the application within
100 miles of the location of that particular phone exchange." The fact
remains that, in many cases, the name and address in VoiceNet's
enrollment records do not match the name and address of the customer
who was charged for service. Similarly, the email address used to sign
up for service often does not belong to the customer who is billed for
the service. The only information that consistently belonged to the
customer whom the Company charged was, in fact, his or her telephone
number. Based on our review of the record, it appears that any
validation procedure that VoiceNet actually performed simply verified
the general existence of the telephone number and that the number was
a working number - and in no way verified that an enrollee actually in
any way intended to subscribe to VoiceNet's dial-around service.
17. VoiceNet's claims that it "verifies" a service request by sending
welcome messages via email to the email address identified on the form
is likewise of no consequence. The process does not require any action
on the part of the consumer to confirm either that the consumer
received the email or that the consumer signed up for or agreed to be
charged for VoiceNet's service. Indeed, many of the complainants
assert they never received any emails or other communications from
VoiceNet regarding its long distance service. This would not be
surprising given that, as noted above, the email address in VoiceNet's
records is generally not the consumer's. Similarly, the welcome
message sent to the postal address provided on the enrollment form
would not reach the consumer when that address does not belong to the
billed customer. Even if a consumer did, in fact, receive this welcome
material, it is possible, if not probable, that he or she might
reasonably discard the material as "junk" mail or spam, given that the
consumer did not create a relationship with, or even know of the
existence of, VoiceNet. On these facts, the mere act of sending an
email or mail without requiring a response from a consumer thus is not
sufficient to "verify" that the consumer, in fact, ordered VoiceNet's
service in the face of the consumer's contrary assertion.
18. VoiceNet's success in what appears to be a constructively fraudulent
enterprise seems to rely on the fact that individuals and businesses
the Company enrolled in its service failed to notice the unauthorized
charges in their multipage telephone bills and so simply proceeded to
pay them, often unaware that they contained charges from an entity
other than their own telephone company. The charges were often listed
on the last pages of the bill and/or did not contain clear
descriptions of the services provided. For example, the Verizon bill
for Complainant E. Wahl had VoiceNet charges on page 16 of the bill,
listed as a "USBI miscellaneous billing charge." It would be difficult
for someone who had never heard of VoiceNet or USBI to know that this
was an unauthorized charge from them on the Verizon bill.
19. If and when consumers ever discovered VoiceNet's charges, the Company
required them to expend significant time and effort to attempt to have
charges removed from their bills. For example, in many cases,
according to the complaints we reviewed, VoiceNet made it difficult
for consumers to obtain full refunds of unauthorized charges, and only
offered consumers a partial refund. Complainant Carrel was initially
offered an adjustment of $14.95 even though VoiceNet had charged him
$89.97. Similarly, while Complainant Sullivan was billed $226.92 by
VoiceNet, the Company offered to credit just $16.07 of the charges. In
other cases, refunds were not provided until after the consumer filed
a complaint with a state or federal regulatory authority. For example,
Complainant Smith explained:
This company has been charging me on my AT&T bill since May 2009 for
services I DID NOT REQUEST. I had never heard of this company before
today.... I called this company and spoke with 3 different
representatives. Each one telling me that they could only refund 4 months
of charges. I asked for a copy of the application that was submitted for
these services and the name is not even spelled like mine NOR is the date
of birth mine. This service is supposed to be for some type of extra long
distance service. I have AT&T and DO NOT NEED ANY FURTHER LONG DISTANCE
CARRIER which I explained to them. They REFUSE to refund the money that
they have scammed from me. I was told from the AT&T representatives that
this has happened to people all over the US from this company and I think
it needs to be stopped!
20. As another example of the difficulty consumers experienced in
attempting to obtain refunds, Complainant Franz, investigating the
VoiceNet charges on her elderly mother's AT&T bill, stated, "I
contacted VoiceNet Telephone LLC [and] spoke to Amy to see what the
charges were[.] [T]hey offered no explanation for the charges but gave
me a line about [how] I could cancel the service and receive one
month's credit for the charges[.] I asked to speak w/a supervisor
repeatedly[.] I was finally transferred to Terry who hung up on me."
21. Based on the record, we conclude that VoiceNet apparently has
willfully and repeatedly placed, or caused to be placed, charges on
complainants' telephone bills that they never authorized. The facts
suggest that VoiceNet engaged in this conduct deliberately. To the
extent it did not, we find that VoiceNet either knew, or reasonably
should have known, through numerous customer inquiries and complaints
that many of its customers had not authorized service and that the
vast majority of them were not using its service - yet VoiceNet
nevertheless proceeded to charge these consumers for months and
sometimes years. VoiceNet's dismissive responses to the consumer
complaints is further evidence that it apparently is deliberately
billing consumers for services they did not authorize. Accordingly, we
find that VoiceNet's cramming constitutes an unjust and unreasonable
practice and demonstrates apparent willful and repeated violations of
section 201(b) of the Act.
A. Proposed Forfeiture Pursuant to Section 503(b) of the Act
22. Section 503(b)(1) of the Act states that any person who willfully or
repeatedly fails to comply with any provision of the Act or any rule,
regulation, or order issued by the Commission, shall be liable to the
United States for a forfeiture penalty. Section 503(b)(2)(B) of the
Act authorizes the Commission to assess a forfeiture of up to $150,000
for each violation, or each day of a continuing violation, up to a
statutory maximum of $1,500,000 for a single act or failure to act by
common carriers. In determining the appropriate forfeiture amount, we
consider the factors enumerated in section 503(b)(2)(E) of the Act,
including "the nature, circumstances, extent and gravity of the
violation, and, with respect to the violator, the degree of
culpability, any history of prior offenses, ability to pay, and such
other matters as justice may require." Although the forfeiture
guidelines do not establish a forfeiture amount for unjust or
unreasonable practices, such as the imposition of unauthorized charges
on consumers' telephone bills, the guidelines do state that, ". . .
any omission of a specific rule violation from the. . . [forfeiture
guidelines]. . . should not signal that the Commission considers any
unlisted violation as nonexistent or unimportant." Apart from the
guidelines, the Commission has the discretion to issue forfeitures on
a case-by-case basis, under its general forfeiture authority contained
in section 503 of the Act.
23. In Long Distance Direct, Inc. ("LDDI"), the Commission found that the
"imposition of unauthorized charges on consumers' telephone bills is a
practice which is unjust and unreasonable within the meaning of
section 201(b) of the Act," and assessed a $40,000 penalty for each
cramming violation investigated in that case. Consistent with LDDI, we
find that each charge VoiceNet caused to be placed on a consumer's
bill without the consumer's authorization constitutes an independent
unjust and unreasonable practice, and thus a separate and distinct
violation of section 201(b) of the Act. There appear to be thousands
of such violations in this case for which the Commission is empowered
to assess a penalty.
24. Weighing the facts before us and taking into account the extent and
gravity of VoiceNet's egregious conduct, as well as its culpability
and information in the current record about its revenues, we find that
a total forfeiture amount of $3,000,000 is appropriate under the
specific circumstances of this case. As noted above, VoiceNet placed
unauthorized charges of at least $12.95 on more than 150,000 telephone
bills over a twelve-month period alone and therefore billed nearly
$2,000,000 to consumers over that time period through its cramming
operation. The forfeiture clearly must exceed this amount in order to
serve as an adequate deterrent and reflect the apparently intentional
nature of VoiceNet's conduct. We therefore propose a forfeiture in the
amount of $3,000,000. In the event VoiceNet continues to engage in
conduct that apparently violates section 201(b)'s prohibition against
unjust and unreasonable practices, such apparent violations could
result in future NALs proposing substantially greater forfeitures and
revocation of VoiceNet's operating authority. Other third-party
service providers are also on notice that practices such as those
engaged in by VoiceNet are unjust and unreasonable, and that we may
propose more significant forfeitures in the future as high as is
necessary, within the range of our statutory authority, to ensure that
such companies do not charge consumers for unauthorized services.
25. We have determined that VoiceNet Telephone, LLC apparently violated
section 201(b) of the Act as identified above. We have further
determined that VoiceNet Telephone, LLC is apparently liable for a
proposed forfeiture in the amount of $3,000,000.
V. Ordering Clauses
26. Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED, pursuant to section 503(b) of the Act, as
amended, 47 U.S.C. S: 503(b)(5), and section 1.80 of the Commission's
rules, 47 C.F.R. S: 1.80, that VoiceNet Telephone, LLC is hereby
NOTIFIED of this APPARENT LIABILITY FOR A FORFEITURE in the amount of
$3,000,000, for willful and repeated violations of section 201(b) of
the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. S: 201(b).
27. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, pursuant to section 1.80 of the
Commission's rules, within thirty (30) days of the release date of
this Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture, VoiceNet Telephone,
LLC SHALL PAY the full amount of the proposed forfeiture or SHALL FILE
a written statement seeking reduction or cancellation of the proposed
28. Payment of the forfeiture must be made by check or similar instrument,
payable to the order of the Federal Communications Commission. The
payment must include the NAL/Account Number and FRN referenced above.
Payment by check or money order may be mailed to Federal
Communications Commission, P.O. Box 979088, St. Louis, MO 63197-9000.
Payment by overnight mail may be sent to U.S. Bank - Government
Lockbox #979088, SL-MO-C2-GL, 1005 Convention Plaza, St. Louis, MO
63101. Payment by wire transfer may be made to ABA Number 021030004,
receiving bank TREAS/NYC, and account number 27000001. For payment by
credit card, an FCC Form 159 (Remittance Advice) must be submitted.
When completing the FCC Form 159, enter the NAL/Account number in
block number 23A (call sign/other ID), and enter the letters "FORF" in
block number 24A (payment type code). VoiceNet Telephone, LLC will
also send electronic notification to Johnny.Drake@fcc.gov on the date
said payment is made. Requests for full payment under an installment
plan should be sent to: Chief Financial Officer -- Financial
Operations, 445 12th Street, S.W., Room 1-A625, Washington, D.C.
20554. Please contact the Financial Operations Group Help Desk at
1-877-480-3201 or Email: ARINQUIRIES@fcc.gov with any questions
regarding payment procedures.
29. The written statement, if any, must be mailed both to: Marlene H.
Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th Street,
SW, Washington, DC 20554, ATTN: Enforcement Bureau -
Telecommunications Consumers Division; and to Richard A. Hindman,
Division Chief, Telecommunications Consumers Division, Enforcement
Bureau, Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th Street, SW,
Washington, DC 20554, and must include the NAL/Acct. No. referenced in
the caption. Documents sent by overnight mail (other than United
States Postal Service Express Mail) must be addressed to: Marlene H.
Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, Office of the
Secretary, 9300 East Hampton Drive, Capitol Heights, MD 20743. Hand or
messenger-delivered mail should be directed, without envelopes, to:
Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, Federal Communications Commission,
Office of the Secretary, 445 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20554
(deliveries accepted Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
only). See www.fcc.gov/osec/guidelines.html for further instructions
on FCC filing addresses.
30. The Commission will not consider reducing or canceling a forfeiture in
response to a claim of inability to pay unless the petitioner submits:
(1) federal tax returns for the most recent three-year period; (2)
financial statements prepared according to generally accepted
accounting practices; or (3) some other reliable and objective
documentation that accurately reflects the petitioner's current
financial status. Any claim of inability to pay must specifically
identify the basis for the claim by reference to the financial
31. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that a copy of this Notice of Apparent Liability
for Forfeiture shall be sent by Certified Mail Return Receipt
Requested and First Class mail to VoiceNet Telephone, LLC, Attention:
Mitchell F. Brecher, Greenberg Traurig, LLP, 2101 L Street, N.W.,
Washington, D.C. 20037.
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
Marlene H. Dortch
VoiceNet's principal address is 6059 Allentown Boulevard, Harrisburg, PA
17112. Cathy Burger-Gray is the owner of the company and the Chief
Executive Officer of VoiceNet is Barry Rynearson. Accordingly, all
references in this NAL to "VoiceNet" also encompass Ms. Burger-Gray and
all other principals and officers of this entity, as well as the corporate
entity itself. The owners of Adept Results, Inc. ("Adept Results"), the
company that manages VoiceNet, are also associated with another
telecommunications carrier, Cheap2Dial Telephone, LLC ("Cheap2Dial").
Cheap2Dial is the subject of another enforcement action we take today. Mr.
Barry Rynearson, who owns Cheap2Dial and a 9.75% interest in Adept
Results, is the Chief Financial Officer of Adept Results, the President
and Chief Executive Officer of Cheap2Dial, as well as the Chief Executive
Officer of VoiceNet. The President, Secretary, and Treasurer of Adept
Results is Joshua Gray.
47 U.S.C. S: 201(b).
Of these 20 customers, at least one was an employee of Adept Results.
For example, Adept Results markets cosmetics and other products, the
charges for which are placed on consumers' telephone bills. See "BBB
Issues Warning on Web Companies Linked to Adept Results," Nov. 11, 2009,
See Letter from Kimberly A. Wild, Assistant Division Chief,
Telecommunications Consumers Division, Enforcement Bureau, Federal
Communications Commission, to VoiceNet Telephone, LLC (Sept. 23, 2010)
("LOI"). The Bureau sent a second LOI to VoiceNet on February 25, 2011.
See Letter from Kimberly A. Wild, Assistant Division Chief,
Telecommunications Consumers Division, Enforcement Bureau, Federal
Communications Commission, to VoiceNet Telephone, LLC (Feb. 25, 2011)
See Letter from Mitchell F. Brecher, Counsel for VoiceNet Telephone, LLC,
to Kimberly A. Wild, Assistant Division Chief, Telecommunications
Consumers Division, Enforcement Bureau, FCC (Nov. 8, 2010) ("Response to
LOI"). VoiceNet's response to the Second LOI was received on March 28,
2011. See Letter from Mitchell F. Brecher, Counsel for VoiceNet Telephone,
LLC, to Kimberly A. Wild, Assistant Division Chief, Telecommunications
Consumers Division, Enforcement Bureau, FCC (Mar. 28, 2011) ("Response to
See Response to LOI at 3-4. "Dial-around" long distance service allows a
telephone subscriber to bypass (i.e., dial around) the subscriber's
preselected long distance telephone carrier, if any, and instead use the
dial-around carrier's long distance service for a particular telephone
call. For each telephone call, the subscriber must use the dial-around
carrier's number and, in some instances, enter a PIN to connect the call.
Id. at Attachment 2. VoiceNet contends that it obtains certain marketing
and account management services from Adept Results. It appears that Adept
Results, in fact, handles the vast majority of VoiceNet's business
operations, including customer service, call center needs, banking and
accounting, and legal services. The underlying carrier whose service
VoiceNet resells is "TCS Communications Solutions, LLC." See id. at 6.
Id. at Attachment 2.
See Letters to FCC responding to consumer complaints.
47 U.S.C. S: 201(b).
See Long Distance Direct, Inc. Apparent Liability for Forfeiture,
Memorandum Opinion and Order, 15 FCC Rcd 3297, 3302, P: 14 (2000) ("LDDI
Forfeiture Order") (finding that the company's practices of cramming
membership and other unauthorized fees on consumer telephone bills was an
unjust and unreasonable practice in connection with communication
We note that VoiceNet provided only those complaints it received in
writing or via email. It did not provide complaints VoiceNet may have
received over the telephone.
See, e.g., Complaint from K. Carrel.
See Complaint from C. Bateman.
See Complaint from J. Hudson.
See Complaint from R. Smith (emphasis in original).
See Response to Second LOI at Section II, Tab A and Tab B.
See Letter to FCC responding to consumer complaint.
See Complaint from K. Smith.
The fact that the name and address in VoiceNet's records do not match the
name and address of the person billed for the service shows that even a
cursory examination of the authorization would have determined that it was
invalid. Many of the so-called authorizations contained names and
addresses that matched the telephone numbers, which is publicly available
See Letter to FCC responding to consumer complaint.
Indeed, we note that much of the identifying information VoiceNet requests
of a person when signing up for its long distance service - name, address,
email address, telephone number, and date of birth - can be obtained
through the purchase of aggregated lists of consumers that are
commercially sold or from free internet websites such as whitepages.com.
Nothing within VoiceNet's sign-up webpage prevents the individual who is
inputting the data from using someone else's identifying information or
otherwise falsifying that data. If the person signing up for the VoiceNet
service inputs someone else's telephone number, the person associated with
that telephone number will be billed by VoiceNet regardless of whether the
other information in the application is correct. See, e.g., Complaint from
K. Carrel (person on authorization was Justin James); Complaint from B.
Shuman (person on authorization was Chris Dairy; address was not Ms.
Shuman's); Complaint from S. Sullivan (person on authorization was Jesse
Costas; address was not Ms. Sullivan's); Complaint from M. Mery (person on
the 6/30/2009 authorization was his ex-wife who died 11/29/2005; address
was not Mr. Mery's); Complaint from C. Monroy (person on the authorization
was Yareli Barahona); Complaint from J. Johnson (person on authorization
was Nick Lloydz; address was not Mr. Johnson's); Complaint from L. Andrews
(person on authorization was Alexis Checketts); Complaint from K. Craig
(person on authorization was Sam Long; address was not Ms. Craig's);
Complaint from A. Adams (person on authorization was Sharoll Fuxler;
address was not Mr. Adams'); Complaint from S. Wilczek (person on
authorization was John Townsead; address was not Ms. Wilczek's).
A practice that "convey[s] insufficient information as to the company's
identity, rates, practices, and range of services" may constitute a
violation of section 201(b). See Telecommunications Research & Action
Center & Consumer Action, 4 FCC Rcd 2157, 2159 P: 14 (Com.Car.Bur. 1989).
See Complaint from K. Carrel; Complaint from S. Sullivan.
See Complaint from S. Smith.
See Complaint from K. Franz.
47 U.S.C. S: 503(b)(1)(B). See also 47 C.F.R. S: 1.80(a)(2).
47 U.S.C. S: 503(b)(2)(B). See also 47 C.F.R. S: 1.80(b)(2). In 2008, the
Commission amended section 1.80(b)(2) of the rules, 47 C.F.R. S:
1.80(b)(2), to increase the maximum forfeiture amounts in accordance with
the inflation adjustment requirements contained in the Debt Collection
Improvement Act of 1996, 28 U.S.C. S: 2461. See Amendment of Section 1.80
of the Commission's Rules and Adjustment of Forfeiture Maxima to Reflect
Inflation, 23 FCC Rcd 9845, 9847 (2008) (adjusting the maximum statutory
amounts for common carriers from $130,000/$1,300,000 to
47 U.S.C. S: 503(b)(2)(E).
See Forfeiture Policy Statement and Amendment of Section 1.80 of the Rules
to Incorporate the Forfeiture Policy Guidelines, Report and Order, 12 FCC
Rcd 17087, 17099, P: 22 (1997) ("Forfeiture Policy Statement"); recon.
denied, 15 FCC Rcd 303 (1999).
Forfeiture Policy Statement, 12 FCC Rcd at 17099, P: 22.
See Long Distance Direct, Inc., Notice of Apparent Liability for
Forfeiture, 14 FCC Rcd 314, 333 P: 25 (1998).
Id. at 337 P: 30.
As noted in the text, see supra P: 15, VoiceNet apparently caused
unauthorized charges to be placed on more than 150,000 bills dated between
March 2010 and February 2011. More than 100,000 of these bills date from
June 2010 - within one year of the date of the instant NAL - and thus
remain actionable under the statute of limitations set forth in section
503(b)(6)(B) of the Act. 47 U.S.C. S: 503(b)(6)(B).
The $3 million penalty we propose is equivalent to applying a $40,000
penalty to 75 violations, but as indicated, see supra note 42, the record
shows that VoiceNet's conduct involves a considerably higher number of
violations during the actionable time period.
47 C.F.R. S: 1.80.
Federal Communications Commission FCC 11-91
Federal Communications Commission FCC 11-91