The Subcommittee’s investigation has focused on the practice of telephone “slamming” – the unauthorized switching, by a long distance carrier, of a consumer’s long distance service. In 1996, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) received over 16,000 complaints from consumers about telephone slamming, making it the number one consumer complaint to the commission. The FCC, which is responsible for investigating complaints of telephone slamming, has adopted regulations against slamming and taken numerous actions against companies that engage in slamming. Despite current regulations that prohibit slamming, this practice continues to be used by long distance carriers against unwitting consumers. The investigation and hearings have focused on the prevalence of slamming and the adequacy of regulations and enforcement by the FCC to prevent this insidious practice.
During the field hearing held in February, Maine slamming victims explained how some long distance companies used fraudulent or deceptive practices to change their telephone service. At the April 23rd hearing, GAO presented the results of a case study, showing that one long distance phone company apparently slammed over 500,000 consumers at one time, billed consumers over $20 million, left unpaid bills to long distance carriers of nearly $4 million, all the while successfully eluding federal officials.