An additional $100,000 will become available for low-income home heating assistance in Indiana after today's approval of a settlement agreement between the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) and a Michigan-based telecommunications company. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) approved the agreement between the OUCC and LCR Communications, LLC at its regular weekly conference this afternoon.
LCR will contribute $100,000 over the next three years to a Community Action Agency or other non-profit organization to be chosen by the OUCC in the near future. The first $25,000 is to be paid within the next ten days, with the remaining $75,000 to be paid in quarterly installments through October 2007.
The agreement settles the OUCC's telephone slamming complaint against LCR. Nearly $15,000 in refunds and credits have been provided to affected consumers - primarily small businesses throughout Indiana who contend that their long distance services were switched to LCR without their approval or consent.
Slamming (transferring a consumer's telephone service to a new provider without permission) and cramming (adding charges or services on a customer's bill that the customer did not request) are both prohibited under Indiana law.
LCR, which admits no liability under the agreement, agrees to not resume telemarketing activities in Indiana until it has paid the $100,000 in full. The company will also implement new procedures to ensure that any future telemarketing is done lawfully and ethically.
"Today's order accomplishes two important things," said Indiana Utility Consumer Counselor Anne E. Becker. "First, it sends a clear message that slamming will not be tolerated in Indiana and that consumers need to know how to keep it from happening to them. Secondly, the agreement will provide more assistance for consumers who will be particularly affected by the higher heating costs that are expected this winter."
Becker noted the need for all consumers to prepare for this winter, including taking steps to improve home and business energy efficiency, and signing up for utility budget bill programs.
More information regarding winter energy tips and natural gas prices is available on the OUCC Website, along with the OUCC's OpenLines (tm) Telecommunications Consumer Handbook - which provides additional information on how to prevent slamming and cramming, and what to do if it happens.
Consumers without Internet access can call the OUCC's consumer services staff toll-free at 1-888-441-2494 to request free copies of publications.
The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) is the state agency that represents the interests of all utility consumers and the public in matters related to the provision of utility services. The agency is active in proceedings before regulatory and legal bodies, and committed to giving consumers a voice in the creation of utility service policy. Consumers with questions or concerns regarding utility service can contact the OUCC toll-free at 1-888-441-2494 or online at www.IN.gov/OUCC.
(IURC Cause No. 41546-SC-04)
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