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Slamming information

Unauthorized change to a customer's primary telephone provider

“Slamming” occurs when a customer’s phone service is illegally switched from one provider to another without the customer’s authorization.  Long-distance service and local service are both targets of slamming.  Consumers can agree to switch their service over the telephone or electronically.  However, the company must verify that the customer agreed.  In such a situation, customers may be instructed to call a toll-free number that is used exclusively for that purpose, or customers may be connected to an independent verification company that will confirm the decision to switch.  Under Massachusetts law, a consumer may choose either a formal or informal procedure to resolve a slamming complaint.

Informal slamming process

Under the informal procedure, the consumer and the company that initiated the change may negotiate mutually acceptable terms to resolve the complaint.  The company cannot be subject to a fine under the informal resolution process.  If you select the informal procedure, the company which initiated the change of your service will contact you directly.  If you have not been contacted by the company within 30 days from the date you return your complaint form to the Department, please call the Consumer Division so that we may follow up with the company and ensure that it processes your complaint in a timely manner.

The terms of the agreement must be signed by both parties and filed with the Consumer Division of the Department.  If mutually acceptable terms are not submitted within 90 days from the consumer's election of the informal procedure, or if the Department determines that the filed, negotiated resolution is unacceptable, the complaint will be processed under the formal procedure.

Formal slamming process

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 M.G.L. c. 93, § 110.  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 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 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 Department 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 Department 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 Department requests this information. M.G.L. c. 93, § 110(e).
  • Within thirty-five days of acknowledging receipt of your complaint and supporting documentation, the Department will send you a copy of the LOA or the TPV recording 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 Department 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 Department in writing if you intend to challenge the validity of the LOA or the TPV recording.  M.G.L. c. 93, § 110(h).
  • The Department, 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 Department 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 Department 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 you lost 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 Department 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 12-month period as determined by the Department, may be prohibited from selling telecommunications services in Massachusetts for up to one year. M.G.L. c. 93, § 112(c).

Additional Resources for Formal slamming process

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