FCC Clarifies Carrier Fraud Definitions & Guidelines

The FCC has now issued a press release outlining a series of new rules, clarifications, and guidelines in a bid to protect consumers from fraud committed by phone companies. Those are chiefly encompassed under what the commission defines as "slamming" and "cramming." The former of those is arguably worse and involves the unauthorized changing of a customers chosen phone company. The FCC says that some companies, or at least representatives of companies, go so far as to ask consumers questions and then join together the responses in order to create the response they are looking for. The second of the two covers something which almost certainly happens with far more frequency. As the FCC defines the term, cramming refers to the addition of unauthorized charges on a phone account for services that users did not authorize. Under the newly adopted rules, companies that violate consumer rights via abuse of the third-party verification process will be forced to use FCC-approved methods for verifying switches and charges.

The FCC has not clarified what those verification processes or methods would be, in the event that a phone service provider was found to be in violation of the newly reworked policy. However, that would be enforced for no less than five years. The general goal is to put a halt to perceived incentives and ensure that there's an extra check in place to discourage carriers who have a history of abuse. For example, T-Mobile was called out back in early 2017 for reportedly encouraging the two behaviors mentioned above. The FCC hopes that type of behavior will be brought to an end by its decision to outline the rules and consequences more clearly. Failing that, it seeks to enforce the rules so that it doesn't happen again in the future.

Conversely, the FCC's announcement also outlined actions it has taken to eliminate the requirement for a phone company to obtain third-party verification of authorization for every service it's selling. The commission determined that to be an unnecessary step and a burden on both consumers and providers. The decision is said to have been made in a bid to save time and confusion, though it will likely save carriers a fair amount of resources, as well.

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