I write separately to express my concern about the breadth of the consent decree appended to today's Order. Consumers have every right to expect that the FCC will vigorously prosecute providers that engage in slamming. As set forth in Section 258 (a), "no telecommunications carrier shall submit or execute a change in a subscriber's selection of a provider . . . except in accordance with such verification procedures as the Commission shall prescribe." Thus, I support our efforts to hold carriers responsible for allegedly unauthorized preferred carrier changes.
However, in my view, slamming allegations do not permit the agency to mandate specific licensee business practices outside the specific scope of the alleged misconduct. Just as license transfers should not be used to extract extensive unrelated concessions from our licensees under the guise of voluntary conditions, our enforcement practices should not furnish a pretext for reaching conduct beyond our statutory charge. For example, under today's consent decree we now require MCI WorldCom to fire employees the first time they "use profanity during a sales call" or "harass" a customer. Similarly we have taken responsibility for a new "Telemarketing Code of Conduct" to be administered to all current and new MCI WorldCom employees and agents involved in telemarketing. These may well be the best business practices for MCI WorldCom, however I do not believe the Commission should impose or be involved in the development and negotiation of such requirements. We are not the Labor Department. We do not have jurisdiction over telemarketing per se. The vulnerable position of a licensee subject to an enforcement action should not be used to impose the Commission's view of "best practices."1
Nor do I believe the FCC should be placed in a position of enforcing such provisions.2 We have neither the expertise nor the resources to police carriers' labor and employment practices. What happens when an employee is fired for using profanity during a sales call? Do they sue their employer or the Commission? Similarly, are we prepared to follow MCI WorldCom's employment practices for the next three years to make sure that anyone who used profanity was fired? Are we to receive complaints from consumers and take actions against individual MCI WorldCom employees?
Finally, these consent decrees create yet another layer of carrier-specific regulation outside the scope of our broadly applicable rules and outside the knowledge of most Americans. Just as license transfer conditions have created company-specific regulations for SBC and Bell Atlantic, now the special telemarketing rules adopted today will apply only to MCI WorldCom. Soon we will need to publish a companion set of CFRs describing the regulatory obligations we have imposed only on some specific carriers.
I support harsh penalties for slamming and increased penalties for repeat offenders. In addition, I believe compliance plans are legitimately considered as a mitigating factor in enforcement proceedings. However, the FCC should not incorporate in its decision -- and purport to enforce -- preferred business practices beyond the scope of the agency's mandate.
For the foregoing reasons, I dissent from those portions of the consent decree that attempt to reach the general business and labor practices of MCI WorldCom, beyond the slamming conduct at issue.
2. See Separate Statement of Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth in AT&T Corp., British Telecommunications, plc, VLT Co. L.L.C., Violet License Co. LLC, and TNV [Bahamas] Limited Applications for Grant of Section 214 Authority, Modification of Authorizations and Assignment of Licenses in Connection with the Proposed Joint Venture Between AT&T Corp. and British Telecommunications, plc, IB Docket No. 98-212, 14 FCC Rcd. 19,140 (1999). See also Separate Statement of Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth in Applications of SatCom Systems Inc., TMI Communications and Company, L.P. and SatCom Systems Inc., File No. 647-DSE-P/L-98 et al, 14 FCC Rcd. 20,798 (1999).