Summary: H.R.3888 — 105th Congress (1997-1998)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Passed House amended (10/12/1998)


Title I: Slamming

Title II: Spamming

Title III: GWCS Auction Deadline

Title IV: Reinstatement of Certain Applicants

Telecommunications Competition and Consumer Protection Act of 1998 - Title I: Slamming - Amends the Communications Act of 1934 (the Act) to direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to prescribe, after notice and public comment, a Code of Subscriber Protection Practices (Code) governing changes in a subscriber's selection of a provider of telephone exchange or toll service. Requires all telecommunications carriers to comply with either the Code or regulations provided under this Act. Requires a carrier electing to follow the Code to comply with its requirements and to verify a subscriber's selection of the carrier in accordance with Code procedures. Requires the Code to prohibit a carrier from using negative option marketing or unfair or deceptive practices in connection with the solicitation of a change in a subscriber's selection of a carrier. Provides, with respect to such carriers and subscribers: (1) for carrier reimbursement to a subscriber for switching fees charged after an unauthorized change in carriers and crediting for any telecommunications charges incurred during the period (for up to 30 days) while the subscriber was improperly subscribed; (2) Code procedures for violation allegations and rebuttals and administrative remedies; and (3) carrier recordkeeping, quality control, and audit requirements. Requires each carrier to elect to be governed by either the Code or regulations prescribed under this Act.

Requires a carrier electing to be covered by regulations, in order to verify a subscriber's selection of an exchange or toll service provider, to require the subscriber to: (1) affirm that the subscriber is authorized to select the service provider for that telephone number; (2) acknowledge the type of service to be changed by the selection; (3) affirm the intent to select the service provider; and (4) acknowledge that such selection will result in a change of service provider.

Requires regulatory procedures to: (1) preclude the use of negative option marketing; (2) provide for a complete copy of verification of a change of provider in oral, written, or electronic form; (3) require the retention of such verification in a manner and form and for such time as the FCC considers appropriate; (4) mandate that verification occur in the same language as that in which the change was solicited; and (5) provide for verification to be made available to a subscriber upon request. Requires a carrier, on the next bill to a subscriber, to notify the subscriber of the carrier change and the subscriber's right to request verification information.

Provides that if a subscriber makes an allegation of a violation of such requirements, the carrier shall immediately change the service provider to the previous provider and credit the subscriber's account for any charges for executing the original change. Outlines similar procedures to be followed when one carrier sends bills on behalf of another carrier.

Outlines procedures for: (1) carrier remedies for alleged violations; (2) FCC determination of violations and remedies (requiring complaints to be resolved within six months); (3) carrier maintenance of information regarding each alleged violation (requiring such information to be submitted to the FCC on a monthly basis); and (4) civil penalties for violations.

Requires the FCC, at least semiannually, to compile and publish a report ranking carriers by the percentage of verified complaints, excluding those generated by unaffiliated resellers, compared to the total number of carrier changes in a subscriber's selection of an exchange or toll service provider. Requires the FCC to investigate the practices of those carriers listed among the five worst in such category for three consecutive periods.

Directs the FCC, every two years, to review the Code to ensure that its requirements adequately protect subscribers from improper changes.

Authorizes States to bring an action on behalf of residents for Code or regulatory violations. Requires such State to provide advance notice to the FCC of such an action. Empowers the FCC to intervene in the action.

Mandates that the initiation of toll service to a subscriber shall be considered a change in selection of a provider for purposes of this title. Prohibits a carrier from being found in violation of this title solely on the basis of a violation by an unaffiliated reseller of that carrier's service.

Directs the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to report to specified congressional committees on the feasibility and desirability of establishing a neutral third-party administration system to prevent illegal changes in telephone subscriber carrier selections.

Title II: Spamming - Expresses the sense of the Congress that: (1) the Congress should decline to enact regulatory legislation with respect to unfair or intrusive practices on the Internet that the private sector can, given the opportunity, deter or prevent; and (2) it is the private sector's responsibility to use that opportunity promptly to adopt, implement, and enforce measures to deter and prevent the improper use of unsolicited commercial electronic mail.

Title III: GWCS Auction Deadline - Removes an August 10, 1998, deadline for the FCC to issue licenses and permits for the use of bands of frequencies that: (1) in the aggregate span not less than ten megahertz; and (2) have been reassigned from Government use pursuant to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration Organization Act.

Title IV: Reinstatement of Certain Applicants - Directs the FCC to reinstate Great Western Cellular Partners, Monroe Telephone Services, L.P., and Future Wave General Partners, L.P. (applicants) as tentative license selectees for the grant of cellular radiotelephone licenses for three rural service areas in Minnesota, Florida, and Pennsylvania; and (2) permit each applicant to amend its application to update information and comply with FCC rules at any time before the FCC's final applicable licensing action. Requires the FCC to award licenses under such action within 90 days after the enactment of this Act. Provides for: (1) license service requirements; (2) FCC establishment and charging of a license fee to such applicants (with required notification of such fee); and (3) fee payment by each applicant by May 31, 2000. Prohibits the FCC, during the five-year period beginning on the date any license is granted, from authorizing the transfer or assignment of such license under appropriate provisions of the Act.