FCC Fines Phone Company GPSPS More Than $9 Million for Cramming, Slamming
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has fined Atlanta-based telephone company GPSPS, Inc. $9,065,000 for switching consumers' long distance carriers without their authorization ("slamming"), billing consumers for unauthorized charges ("cramming"), and submitting falsified evidence to government regulatory officials as "proof" that consumers had authorized the company to switch their long distance providers.
"Companies that engage in these practices betray consumers who trust that their telephone bills will contain only authorized charges," said Travis LeBlanc, Chief of the Enforcement Bureau. "Today's announcement makes clear that the FCC will take strong action against those who switch consumers' telephone carriers without authorization and then mislead the government to try to avoid detection."
The FCC's Enforcement Bureau says that it reviewed more than 150 complaints against GPSPS that consumers filed with the Commission, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Public Utility Commission of Texas, and the Better Business Bureau.
The complaints allege that GPSPS switched consumers' long distance service provider without their authorization even though they had never heard of or spoken to the company before discovering GPSPS's charges on their telephone bills. In many cases, the complaints allege, GPSPS refused to refund all the unauthorized fees.
Instead, the Bureau says that GPSPS misrepresented to consumers that they or someone in their household had authorized the company's service, and that GPSPS possessed an audio recording evidencing the authorization.
According to the FCC, that supposed audio "verification" recordings GPSPS mentioned to consumers were fake. GPSPS submitted these fabricated recordings to the Commission and state regulatory authorities as "proof" that the consumers had authorized its service.
With today's action, the FCC has now taken more than 30 enforcement actions for cramming or slamming in the past five years. These actions have announced more than $100 million in penalties, and are slated to return more than $250 million to consumers.
For more information about the FCC's rules protecting consumers from unauthorized charges on phone bills, see the FCC consumer guide, Cramming – Unauthorized, Misleading, or Deceptive Charges Placed on Your Telephone Bill.
For information about other communications issues, visit the FCC's Consumer website, or contact the FCC's Consumer Center by calling toll-free 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322).