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Entries in Federal Communications Commission (6)

Wednesday
Feb152012

FCC Cracks Down on 'Robocalls'

Pixland/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- "Robocalls," those unsolicited, inhuman phone calls that always seem to come at the most inopportune times, may be one of the most annoying aspects of modern life.

Every night at dinnertime, marketers rev up their computers and dial countless numbers, ringing phones all over America. But as of Wednesday, after thousands of complaints, the Federal Communications Commission is going to require companies to get your expressed, written consent before they "robocall" or text you.

"Consumers who don't mind getting these calls can still get them," Julius Genachowski, the chairman of the FCC, told ABC News. "Those who don't want them don't have to."

However, there are still some loopholes. Nonprofit groups like your kid's school or your local church can still "robocall" you. So can politicians and pollsters.

Also, if companies want to go old school, they can still have real human beings call you.

So what can you do to protect yourself?

  1. Starting soon, anyone who "robocalls" you will have to give you an opportunity to opt-out of all future calls within the first two seconds of the call.
  2. Go to DoNotCall.gov and add your name to the National Do Not Call Registry. The registry requires that you re-up every five years.
  3. If you're on the National Do Not Call Registry and you're still getting called, depending on which state you're in you may be able to sue the company.
  4. Never give out your phone number on the checkout line when shopping.

Even if you take precautions, however, the truth is marketers will still try to find ways to reach you.

The government acknowledges this, but insists that Wednesday they struck a big blow against marketers, making dinner time in America much saner.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb152012

FCC to Crackdown on 'Robocalls'

Pixland/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Federal Communications Commission is set to crackdown on those annoying automatically dialed or pre-recorded calls many Americans receive at home each day; tougher rules on when consumers can be called are expected to be approved on Wednesday.

The measures would give people stronger protections against these so-called "robocalls."  The aim is to end the loopholes in the "Do Not Call" legislation that was passed by Congress in 2008 with the intention of putting an end to these calls.

Under the new rules, telemarketers would have to get written permission before they could make an automated call. Currently, consumers who have business relationships with companies may be called without permission.

Robocalls from political groups and non-profit organizations such as schools would not be covered by the new FCC regulations.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun222011

How To Spot and Prevent Unauthorized Telephone Bill Fees

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- You could be paying unauthorized fees on your telephone bill -- sometimes for months or years -- and not even be aware of it.

About 15 to 20 million households are overcharged for their telephone landlines by third party companies and only 5 percent realize they are victims, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

But the FCC is about to propose high fines against companies that charge consumers excess fees, or "cramming" on their telephone bills.  The majority of cases, 82 percent, take place on landline phone services, according to the FCC.  Nearly 16 percent of cases are on wireless phone bills, while 2 percent are on "other" bills, such as voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP.

One FCC investigation found only 22 of 18,571 consumers surveyed used the third-party dial-around long distance service for which they were billed, which was roughly a 0.1 percent usage rate.

On Monday, Chairman Julius Genachowski said the FCC proposed high fines for companies that have taken millions of dollars from consumers through these unauthorized fees.  The FCC is also taking steps to educate consumers against companies charging hidden fees.

"These are important next steps to protect consumers from hidden fees that can cost them money, take valuable time to resolve, and undermine the public's confidence in our communications system," the chairman said.

The cramming terms sometimes used on telephone bills include: service fee, service charge, other fees, voicemail, mail server, calling plan, or membership.

Last week, the FCC proposed penalties of $11.7 million against four companies in Pennsylvania that may have billed tens of thousands of consumers in cramming charges.  The FCC charged Main Street Telephone ($4.2 million), VoiceNet Telephone, LLC ($3 million), Cheap2Dial Telephone, LLC ($3 million), and Norristown Telephone, LLC ($1.5 million).

Both cellphone and landline consumers may overlook these fees, which can range from $1.99 to $19.99 a month, on their telephone bills.  To help consumers, the FCC offers these tips to prevent and spot cramming charges:

-- Read all forms and even promotional materials, including the fine print, before signing up for telephone or other services.

-- Review your telephone bill every month, just as closely as you monitor your monthly credit card or bank statements.

-- Ask yourself if you recognize the companies, services, charges, and rates on your bill.

-- Don't ignore small charges, which can add up to big amounts.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun012011

Sprint Asks FCC to Block AT&T/T-Mobile Merger

AT&T(WASHINGTON) -- Sprint wants the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to step in and put a stop to AT&T's proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA.

The wireless carrier announced Tuesday that it has formally put in a request with the FCC to block the transaction, which would merge the second and fourth largest wireless providers in the country and reduce market competition.

Sprint told the FCC that if the merger were to go forth, it would "harm the broadband economy, competition and consumers," as well as "innovation and investment."  Consumers would be left with fewer choices when choosing cellphone providers, which could result in higher prices for them, Sprint noted.

Furthermore, the transaction would bump up AT&T's power, making it and Verizon "the gatekeepers of the digital ecosystem, stifling innovation and choice in new devices and applications."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar252011

FCC May Give AT&T/T-Mobile Deal a Rough Time

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON DC) -- The Federal Communications Commission is taking the hard line against the T-Mobile/AT&T merger.

The $39 billion merger threatens to make AT&T a monopoly in the mobile carrier market. The deal would make AT&T the only cell phone provider to have a GSM network, unlike Sprint and Verizon's CDMA system.

"There's no way the [FCC] chairman's office rubber-stamps this transaction. It will be a steep climb to say the least," an FCC official told The Wall Street Journal.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct282010

Verizon to Pay Billions to Customers over Incorrect Data Charges 

Photo Courtesy - PRNewsFoto | Pierce Promotions(WASHINGTON) -- Verizon Wireless has settled a dispute over data charges in an agreement with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In a statement released by Verizon on Thursday, it acknowledged making “inadvertent billing mistakes” that resulted in customers being billed for additional data charges.

“We are issuing credits and refunds on our own initiative and because it is the right thing to do for our customers,” the statement read. “Fixing this for our customers has been our aim since last year, as we stated publicly at that time.”

The agreement comes after a 10-month-long investigation by the FCC into consumer complaints over unexplained “pay-as-you-go” data fees. These are charges of $1.99 per megabyte that apply to Verizon Wireless customers who do not subscribe to a data package or plan.

 “Today’s settlement requires Verizon Wireless to make meaningful business reforms, prevent future overcharges, and provide consumers clear, easy-to-understand information about their choices,” said Michele Ellison, Chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau.  “I am gratified by the cooperation of the Verizon Wireless team in the face of these issues, and pleased they are taking the high road.”

Verizon said it plans to spend $52.8 billion to reimburse about 15 million current and former customers who may have been incorrectly billed.

In addition, Verizon will pay $25 million to the U.S. Treasury under an agreement with the FCC.

The payment represents the largest settlement in FCC history.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio