June 4, 1999
Director, Division of Marketing Practices
Federal Trade Commission
Sixth St. and Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Dear Ms. Harrington:
RE: Pay-per-Call Rule
The Electronic Commerce Association (ECA) has the following additional comments for the
record on the Pay-per-Call Rulemaking.
Our earlier comments in response to the FTC's October 30, 1998, Notice of Proposed
Rulemaking urged the Commission to refrain from taking actions that would have the effect
of foreclosing billing options, particularly use of LEC bills. Such limitations would
decrease the number of legitimate low-priced information services available to consumers
and discriminate against consumers who do not have credit cards or prefer to use other
In light of the information developed at the FTC workshop on May 20th and 21st,
the ECA believes that its original position was vindicated. The original rule amending the
pay-per-call "900 Number Rule" would severely impair the availability and
usefulness of pay-per-call information services. We urge that the following principles
guide the staff and Commission members as you consider further action on an amended rule.
Open Billing Platforms. As the information services business evolves and grows,
it is critical to ensure that the various billing options are open and usable by
consumers. They cannot and should not be encumbered by overly restrictive rules that, in
practice, render them all but unusable. It is important to remember that different
channels must be available at multiple price points to accommodate the large variety of
services that are now available and could become available in the future.
Equity and Consumer Choice. The workshop raised questions about the application
of rules to LEC services. Except for basic voice telecommunications services, there is
absolutely no justification for treating LECs any differently than competitive information
providers. It is widely accepted in the communications sector that service
"bundling" confers a key competitive advantage on an offeror. Bundling will
become a much more significant public policy issue in the future, and the FTC should not
abet the RBOCs' strategy by enabling them to gain an advantage over their competitors
Technological Neutrality. The pay-per-call amendments were drafted with the
telephone industry in mind. Information services can be provided in voice, data, text or
other formats. The final rule should not be crafted in such a way as to discourage the
emergence of valuable new information services nor that inadvertently affect
Internet-based services such as CTI (computer telephone integration) or Internet access.
Policy consistency. Both the FTC and the FCC are examining different aspects of
telephone billing. While their jurisdictions and priorities differ, the two agencies'
activities may indirectly affect each other's policy-making authority. The ECA recommends
that the two agencies coordinate their efforts to ensure that their policies are
consistent and complimentary even if the process should consume additional time.
I would also like to place in the record an article that appeared in the June 3, 1999
edition of the Wall Street Journal. The writer notes that the US lags Europeans in the use
of telephone-based advanced information services. Such services appear on the telephone
bill and refute LEC claims that such charges are "inappropriate" or
"unreasonable". While the FTC may not address directly the question of whether
the LEC monopolies should be required to open up their bills to competitive service
providers, it can and should address the danger of discriminatory treatment of non-LEC
information service providers.
E. Wayne Thevenot