Law in Plain Language: Telephone 'Slamming'
Don't ask me how it got the name, but the practice of slamming-as applied to telephone service, not doors-- has become a major consumer protection problem.
Slamming refers to long distance telephone service companies switching consumers' phone service without their knowledge, a practice that has unfortunately become much more frequent recently.
Some long distance telephone carriers have devised ingenious schemes to change your service, so consumers should pay close attention to ensure they have the telephone service they want.
In one slamming scheme, consumers are led to believe they are signing a coupon check for money back, when in reality they are authorizing a long distance phone carrier to switch their service. Or they may be sent a check, filled with small print-the devil left to the indecipherable details. Or your service may be switched simply by someone purporting to survey you about telephone service.
Companies may take the conversations out of context and switch the service, claiming consumers have authorized such a change. Also, consumers need to know that disclosing private information about personal finances may lead to problems.
A long distance telephone company may be legitimate, but it has no right to slam you - to change your long distance carrier without your express, informed permission.
Recently, I urged the Federal Communications Commission to devise a process to ensure that changes in long distance companies are proper. The new rule would compel long distance telephone carriers switching consumers to first fill out a form, sign it, and send it in to the company.
My proposal also would force companies to stop slamming through sweepstakes and other "special offers." Forms would be required in clear, plain language.
If you did switch your long distance phone service, the company would be required to send you a clear, conspicuous notice something strikes you as worthy of attention, not just a routine part of your telephone bill. In all those ways, my proposal would help halt slamming and stop switching of long distance service without appropriate authorization.
Every consumer should take the time to carefully check every bill, especially telephone bills. Make sure that you are being served by the telephone company of your choice.
If you wish to switch your phone service, do so in writing. But don't be slammed.
If you think that you have been slammed by a long distance telephone carrier, write me at 55 Elm Street, Hartford, Connecticut 06106.