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This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).

August 12, 1997

Commissioner Ness Calls for Tougher Action Against Slamming

"The message is loud and clear: we will not tolerate slamming. But more needs to be done," said Commissioner Susan Ness today.

In testimony delivered this morning before the Senate Subcommittee on Communications' hearing on slamming, Ness said, "Because most slammed consumers grin and bear it, we don't know how many of the 50 million carrier selection changes each year result from slamming. If just 1% were slamming changes -- a very conservative estimate -- that would total over 500,000 slamming incidents each year." She added that she expects local service slamming to increase as local competition develops.

"We have a two-pronged approach to combat this problem: First, our rules make it harder for carriers to slam. Second, carriers who do not follow the rules are severely punished," Ness continued. She noted that, since 1994, the Commission has imposed consent decrees and has assessed companies more than $1 million in forfeitures, with approximately $500,000 in additional penalties pending.

Ness also cited the slamming rulemaking currently underway. In this proceeding, the Commission has asked for comment on whether slamming carriers should reimburse consumers for the loss of premiums, such as frequent flier miles, and whether slammed consumers should have to pay at all for the service rendered by the slamming carrier. "Here, we must weigh the deterrent effect against the possibility of encouraging bogus complaints," Ness said.

Ness questioned the effectiveness of one of the procedures to verify long distance switches, the "welcome package." She also called for an examination of the slamming rules with future local competition in mind. "The local exchange carrier may no longer be acting as a neutral third party....In drafting our rules, we must be vigilant to avoid deterring lawful competition as we work to eliminate slamming."

Finally, Ness encouraged consumers to send comments on the FCC's slamming proposals to slamming@comments.fcc.gov.


News Media contact: Rochelle Cohen at (202) 418-0253.