FCC Seeks to Refresh the Record in Cramming Rulemaking Proceeding

FCC Seeks to Refresh the Record in Cramming Rulemaking ProceedingThe following is a guest contributed post from Stephen Thompson, an attorney in Arent Fox’s Communications, Technology & Mobile practice group.

On August 27, 2013, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) released a Public Notice seeking to refresh the record in a “cramming” rulemaking proceeding it initiated last year. Cramming is the term used to describe the unlawful and fraudulent practice of placing unauthorized charges on a consumer’s telephone bill. The FCC appears to be particularly interested in how this issue affects wireless carriers.

In April of 2012, the FCC adopted new rules to address “cramming” on wireline consumers’ phone bills. At the same time, the FCC issued a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“FNPRM”) seeking comment on additional measures to prevent wireline cramming, and on possible regulatory and non-regulatory measures to address cramming on mobile consumers’ bills. The comment period for the FNPRM closed in July 2012.

The FCC now seeks to refresh the record in that proceeding due to what it describes as “a number of noteworthy developments” that have taken place since the time comments were filed last year. In particular, the FCC identified the following new developments:

  • some wireline carriers have implemented voluntary commitments to cease third-party billing
  • forty state and territorial attorneys general have expressed concerns to the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) over the growth of cramming on mobile consumers’ bills
  • the FCC and the FTC have each convened workshops which provided additional information regarding the extent of cramming and industry efforts to combat it

The FCC would like to provide interested parties an opportunity to comment on the information that these new developments have brought to light.  The Public Notice specifically seeks to refresh the record regarding a number of issues, including:

  • the recent “noteworthy developments” described above;
  • issues previously raised in the FNPRM, such as

– the current extent of cramming for both wireline and CMRS services
– the need for an opt-in requirement
– the mechanics of opt-in processes

  • the efficacy of CMRS industry efforts to combat cramming, such as the double opt-in process;
  • any other industry efforts to combat cramming; and
  • whether any new measures to combat CMRS cramming are appropriate

The comment due dates will not be set until after publication of the notice in the Federal Register. It is likely that comments will not be due until after the new FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has assumed office.

About the Author

Stephen Thompson is an attorney in Arent Fox’s Communications, Technology & Mobile practice.  He advises clients who operate at the intersection of technology and communications on legal and regulatory compliance issues relating to the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission.