|Re:||Business Discount Plan, Inc. Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (Enf No. 98-02).|
Today the Commission issues a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture against Business Discount Plan, Inc. for violating Sections 201(b) and 258 of the Communications Act by misrepresenting their service offering and for the unauthorized change of a customer's preferred long distance carrier ("slamming"). Slamming and other fraudulent business practices are a growing concern for consumers and this agency, and I congratulate the Commission on taking steps to combat these problems. Providing false information to consumers corrupts free markets and will not be tolerated.
I also caution consumers, however, that they must be more vigilant in their own defense. It is not within this agency's legal authority to protect consumers from mere aggressive marketing. Neither the urging of a salesman nor a consumer's inability to understand a service offering justifies the Commission's intervening in otherwise legitimate contracts. While this agency should and will do what it can to ensure that false information and fraudulent activities are not tolerated, consumers themselves need to become vigilant against accurate but aggressive marketing techniques. In such a situation it is consumers, not the federal government, that can ensure that only the services actually requested by the customer are accepted.
Before we proceed much further with enforcement of slamming rules as they relate to marketing, the Commission should develop clear and unambiguous rules delineating permissible marketing practices from impermissible practices. We do not yet have such rules on either a prospective or retrospective basis, and it is consequently difficult to defend FCC judgments about slamming under specific circumstances.