PROTECTING CONSUMERS FROM THE UNATHORIZED SWITCHING OF LOCAL AND LONG DISTANCE TELECOMMUNICATIONS SERVICE PROVIDERS

On December 10, 1998, a law protecting consumers from the unauthorized switching of their local or long distance telecommunications service provider went into effect in Massachusetts. M.G. L. c. 93 §§ 108 to 113. If your original local or long distance telephone service provider is switched without your proper authorization you may return to your original local or long distance carrier without penalty or loss of any incentives to which you were entitled before the switch. M.G.L. c. 93 § 112(a).

To exercise your rights under this law, you must adhere strictly to all of the prescribed deadlines provided in the statute. Your failure to comply with the time periods set forth may limit any relief to which you may otherwise be entitled.

An authorized switch of your local or long distance telephone service provider occurs, for the purposes of the new law, when the local or long distance telephone service provider that initiates the switch obtains a signed Letter of Agency (LOA) from you or obtains your oral confirmation recorded by a Third Party Verification (TPV) service provider who is registered with the Department of Telecommunications and Cable (DTC). M.G.L. c. 93 § 109(a).

If you believe that your original local or long distance telephone service provider was switched to a new local or long distance telephone service provider without your written approval or oral authorization you may:

File a complaint with the DTC within 90 days after the statement date of the notice indicating that your local or long distance telephone service provider has been switched. M.G.L. c. 93 § 110(b).

  • Provide the DTC with: (1) a copy of your telephone bill; (2) the name of your original local or long distance telephone service provider; (3) the name of the local or long distance telephone service provider that switched your service without your authorization; and (4) any other relevant information. M.G.L. c. 93 § 110(d). You must provide this within 15 business days from the date the DTC requests this information. M.G.L. c. 93 § 110(e).
  • Within thirty-five days of acknowledging receipt of your complaint and supporting documentation, the DTC will send you a copy of the LOA or the TPVrecording obtained from the local or long distance telephone company that switched your local or long distance telephone service. M.G.L. c. 93 §§ 110(f), 110(g) and 110(h).
  • Within 15 business days after the DTC provides you with a copy of the signed LOA or a copy of the TPV recording obtained from the local or long distance telephone service provider that switched your local or long distance telephone service, you must inform the DTC in writing if you intend to challenge the validity of the LOA or the TPV recording. M.G. L. c. 93 § 110(h).
  • The DTC, within twenty business days of receipt of your written response challenging the LOA or TPV, will conduct a hearing to determine whether your primary local or long distance telephone service provider was switched without your authorization. M.G. L. c. 93 § 110(i). YOU MUST BE PRESENT AT THE HEARING. The DTC will base its determination on a review of the LOA or TPV recording submitted by the local or long distance telephone service provider who initiated the switch and any other relevant evidence you submitted. M.G.L. c. 93 § 110(i). A decision will be rendered within ten business days after the hearing. M.G.L. c. 93 § 110(i).

If the DTC determines that your original local or long distance service provider has been switched without your authorization, the new local or long distance service provider that initiated the switch will be required to pay you any of your reasonable expenses incurred in switching back to your original local or long distance telephone service provider. M.G.L. c. 93 § 112(a)(ii). You are also entitled to a refund of any charges you paid that exceed the difference between what you would have paid had your original local or long distance telephone service provider handled your calls and what you actually paid to the local or long distance telephone service provider that switched your telephone service without proper authorization. M.G.L. c. 93 § 112(a)(i). Your original local or long distance service provider will refund, credit or adjust any incentives that were lost by you as a result of the unauthorized switch in your local or long distance telephone service provider including, but not limited to frequent flyer miles and charitable contributions. M.G.L. c. 93 § 112(a)(iii).

Any local or long distance telephone service provider determined by the DTC to have switched customers' telephone service two times or more in a 12 month period shall be subject to a civil penalty of $1,000 or less in the first instance and $2,000 to $3,000 for subsequent violations of the anti-slamming law. M.G.L. c. 93 § 112(b).

Any local or long distance telephone service provider that switches intentionally, maliciously or fraudulently the long distance or local telephone service of more than 20 customers in a twelve month period as determined by the DTC, may be prohibited from selling telecommunications services in Massachusetts for up to one year. M.G.L. c. 93 § 112(c).