UPDATE: An IURC Order in this case was issued Jan. 22, 2003.
OUCC News Release, issued Sep. 13, 2002:
The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) has reached a settlement agreement with New Access Communications, LLC that will result in penalties against and customer refunds from the company for violations of the state's telephone slamming law. Indiana law prohibits slamming (the transfer of a consumer's telephone service to a new provider without authorization) and cramming (the addition of charges and services on a consumer's bill that the consumer did not request or use). The settlement agreement was filed today with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) and will require IURC approval to take effect.
Numerous consumers filed complaints regarding New Access with the IURC's Consumer Affairs Division and the OUCC late last year. Issues raised in the complaints included allegations of transferring local and/or long distance service without authorization and the provision of false, misleading or incomplete information about rates and company affiliation when New Access solicited consumers to change their local and long distance services.
"All telecommunications providers should market themselves in an ethical manner," said Indiana Utility Consumer Counselor Anne E. Becker. "This agreement provides a fair resolution to New Access customers by giving them the restitution they deserve, while sending the strong message that slamming and cramming practices are not welcome in the State of Indiana."
The settlement agreement requires New Access to:
- Provide at least $87,000 in customer credits and/or refunds to current and former New Access customers,
- Pay a one-time penalty of $20,000 into the Indiana Utility Rate Payer Trust Fund (which funds efforts by individuals and consumer groups to actively participate in utility regulatory proceedings),
- Provide specified and detailed information to potential customers during future telephone solicitations and verify consumers' authorizations to switch providers,
- Educate its telemarketers of details of all charges new customers may incur, and
- Provide written educational materials to all new customers.
New Access, which is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, voluntarily suspended all of its direct marketing activities in Indiana in December 2001. The company will not resume direct marketing until 30 days after the IURC approves the settlement agreement.
An OUCC brochure on Telephone Slamming and Cramming offers tips on how consumers can protect themselves and explains what consumers should do if they believe they have been slammed or crammed. Consumers can receive free copies of the brochure by calling the OUCC's consumer services staff toll-free at 1-888-441-2494. The brochure and other consumer publications are also available on the agency's Website at www.IN.gov/oucc.
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. Utility consumers with questions or concerns regarding utility service can contact the OUCC toll-free at 1-888-441-2494 or on the World Wide Web at www.IN.gov/oucc.
(IURC Cause No. 41546-SC-03)
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