In the Matter of
File No. R611016
SUPPLEMENTAL COMMENTS OF BELL ATLANTIC
Bell Atlantic submits these supplemental comments following the Commission's Public Workshop on its proposed changes to its pay-per-call rules.
Bell Atlantic has no objection if the pay-per-call industry establishes a database to permit it to protect itself against fraud. No service provider should be required to provide information to this database. As we indicated at the Workshop, however, if the industry is going to collect information about consumers and the services they buy, it should be done with the strictest controls to protect consumer privacy. Safeguards should include both protection from disclosure and from use for marketing and other purposes.
Bell Atlantic appreciated the opportunity to participate in the Workshop. We hope that the discussion will be helpful to the Commission in focussing and refining its proposed rules. As we indicated, the industry and the public will be best served with rules that have more "bright lines" and fewer subjective standards. That is why Bell Atlantic favored, for example, safe-harbor language in proposed rule 308.17 of the sort contained in handout D from the Workshop.
We want the Commission to understand, however, that stating our preference for such language does not change our view that the Commission lacks the authority to adopt the broad anti-cramming rules it is proposing. TDDRA gives the Commission only limited jurisdiction and authority. Congress directed the Commission to "prescribe rules establishing procedures for the correction of billing errors with respect to telephone-billed purchases."(1) Many of the new proposals go way beyond "establishing procedures for the correction of billing errors" and would cover transactions that are not "telephone billed purchases" as Congress carefully defined that term. And the Commission may not use its broad authority under section 5 to regulate telephone company billing services because common carriers are excluded from that section.
We also believe that the evidence offered by industry at the Workshop demonstrates that cramming was last year's problem and that no new regulation is required. In April, Bell Atlantic received approximately 5000 cramming complaints concerning programs for which it was still billing, out of some 6.5 million miscellaneous charges billed. This number is down significantly from the complaint level of last year. This complaint rate simply does not support imposing new requirements on telephone company billing, requirements that exceed those imposed on credit card companies.
To the extent that cramming does still remain a problem, Bell Atlantic urges the Commission to use its resources to go after the bad actors, not to try to regulate telephone company billing services.
John M. Goodman
Michael E. Glover
Dated: June 4, 1999
1. 1 15 U.S.C. § 5721(a)(1).