Slamming & Cramming Defined
- SLAMMING: Slamming is the term used when your local or long distance carrier is illegally changed without your consent.
- CRAMMING: Some companies also try to bill you for other calling services which you did not request. This practice is known as cramming. The best defense is to listen carefully to sales pitches, closely review monthly bills and read the fine print when filling out sweepstakes entries.
How Slamming Occurs
There are a number of ways unethical sales people can cause your phone service to be switched without your knowledge. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allows companies to use telemarketing techniques to solicit business. Telemarketers can cause your phone service to be switched by getting you to say yes during a telemarketing call. Also, you can inadvertently agree to switch your carrier by signing a sweepstakes entry card. In some circumstances, failure to return a postage-paid card within a certain timeframe will trigger an unauthorized change. Sometimes a family member or office associate unknowingly authorizes the change.
Find out if you've been slammed
Usually you don’t know you’ve been slammed until you look at the long distance portion of your phone bill and realize your normal carrier has been replaced by another. The new carrier may charge higher rates and you could be facing a higher bill.
- Read your phone bill carefully each month. Make sure you chose the local and long distance carriers listed on your bill.
- Call 1-700-555-4141 and a recording will tell you which long distance carrier is connected to your line.
- If you are slammed, call your phone company and request Primary Interexchange Carrier (PIC) protection on your phone line(s). A PIC prohibits changes in long distance carriers without your express authorization.
- Educate your family and office associates. Only one person should have the authority to change your home or business phone company. Make sure everyone knows what to do if they receive calls regarding telephone service.
- Never allow your service to be changed unless you understand the new rates and services.
- Ask if there is a charge to switch companies and whether you or the new carrier will pay it.
- Do not give out your credit card numbers, Social Security number or other personal information over the phone to an unknown caller.
- Insist telemarketers put you on their “do not call” list.
The PUCN Can Help
In addition to tracking which companies are using misleading or fraudulent tactics, the PUCN’s Consumer Complaint Resolution Division (Division) can work with your long distance and local carriers to return you to your carrier of choice without charge. The Division will work to obtain any refunds you are owed due to higher charges. Call the Division in Northern Nevada at (775) 684-6100 and in Southern Nevada at (702) 486-2600.
Both the PUCN and FCC have rules that carriers should follow when soliciting a customer to switch phone companies. The rules say the customer is entitled to receive confirmation of the requested switch in writing, by calling an 800 verification number and/or by having an independent third party verify the change. However, these consumer safeguards are increasingly being violated as carriers compete for new customers in the competitive telecommunications markets.
Phone companies engaging in illegal switching are subject to FCC fines up to $100,000 per offense. The FCC’s toll free number is 1-888-225-5322. They also can be prohibited from doing business in Nevada.