Telephone Slamming Bill Dies
Oct. 21, 1998
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Legislation aimed at making it more difficult for people to have their long-distance company switched without permission died Wednesday.
Congress failed to complete action on the measure _ a product of House and Senate negotiations _ before the Senate adjourned for the year.
``It's dead as a doornail,'' said Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., a primary architect of the bill that sought to crack down on the illegal practice known as ``slamming.''
Under the bill, the Federal Communications Commission, after consulting with the Federal Trade Commission and the telephone industry, would have developed a voluntary anti-slamming code that long-distance companies would follow.
Among other things, the code would have specified that companies reimburse customers for unauthorized charges caused by slamming, a rule the FCC has been pushing. It also would have had companies verify their customers' selected long-distance providers and notify customers when their long-distance providers were switched.
Companies that didn't voluntarily follow the code would have been subject to potentially tougher FCC anti-slamming regulations.
``I regret that last-minute negotiating and requests delayed consideration of anti-slamming legislation and that time to pass the bill ran out,'' said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chief advocate of anti-slamming laws in the Senate.
Tauzin won't reoffer his legislation next year as long as the FCC adopts new regulations to crack down on slamming, said spokesman Ken Johnson.
The FCC wants to move forward on tougher anti-slamming proposals to combat the growing problem.
AT&T urged the commission to adopt rules that ``provide for industry self-policing'' _ the approach taken in the failed legislation.
Other lawmakers, including Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., plan to offer anti-slamming legislation next year.