FCC to Fine Companies $29.6 Million for Egregious Treatment of Consumers and Obstruction
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced a $29,600,000 proposed fine against four related long distance carriers for a variety of apparent fraudulent, deceptive, and manipulative practices targeting consumers with Hispanic surnames.
In today's action, the Commission asserts that OneLink Communications, Inc., TeleDias Communications, Inc., TeleUno, Inc., and Cytel, Inc., "slammed" consumers by switching their long distance carriers without authorization and "crammed" unauthorized charges onto consumers' bills. In addition, it is alleged that the companies, which operate as a single enterprise, fabricated audio recordings that they then submitted to the FCC as "proof" of the consumers' supposed authorization of these changes and charges.
"Charging consumers for services they did not want or authorize is simply unacceptable," said FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc. "We are committed to combating slamming and cramming because these unjust and unreasonable practices result in consumers paying for services they never requested or received, and spending their time trying to reverse unauthorized carrier charges."
Over 140 consumers filed complaints with the FCC after discovering that the companies allegedly switched their long distance carriers and charged them for new services without their authorization.
According to the FCC, some consumers alleged that the companies' telemarketers pretended to be from the post office calling about a nonexistent package delivery to obtain information for the purpose of creating fake consumer authorization recordings. In other cases, the companies impersonated individuals in the authorization recordings. The companies then allegedly provided the fake authorizations to the FCC in response to its investigation into the consumer complaints.
Even after consumers repeatedly contacted the companies about the alleged unauthorized charges and carrier switches, the companies purportedly refused to provide refunds until consumers filed complaints with the FCC, Better Business Bureau, or state regulators.
The FCC found that the companies' apparent unauthorized charges and deceptive marketing calls constituted "unjust and unreasonable" practices under the Communications Act. The FCC also determined that the companies apparently violated federal law by submitting fake consumer authorizations and providing false and misleading information to the FCC during its investigation.
In today's action, formally called a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture, the FCC also makes clear that, following a reasonable chance for the companies to respond to the allegations, the Commission may initiate proceedings that could result in revocation of the companies' authorizations to operate.
To file a complaint with the FCC, go to https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us/en-us or contact the FCC's Consumer Center by calling 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322).