The Business Council of New York State, the State’s leading statewide business and industry association, opposes this legislation that would amend the Public Service Law prohibiting the imposition of any charge or fee on the telephone bill of a consumer when such fee or charge is imposed by a third party and not explicitly agreed to by the consumer.
This bill is redundant in that it adds another layer of regulation on an issue already addressed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Recently, the FCC updated its rules on cramming. Enacting this bill creates a State regulatory framework in addition to a national regulatory framework. Creating a State system that may compete or differ, even if only slightly, from national regulations creates a patchwork of cramming rules.
It should be noted that in some instances customers are legitimately billed for services such as long distance from one billing entity for services chosen by the consumer, but billed by another. With States creating their own systems, this runs the risk of creating regulations placing providers with the responsibility for documenting, and then storing, a customer’s consent for being billed for long distance charges from another carrier that they (the consumer) have chosen to go with.
Specifically the phrase “unless the consumer explicitly agrees to the nature and amount of such fee or charge” is unclear. When customers make a charitable pledge does that suffice as an “explicit” agreement to pay a third party charge? Likewise, when customers choose another carrier or service for long distance, is that an “explicit” agreement to have a third party charge on one’s bill?
We have been informed by a member of the industry that any bill that is sent with third party charges on it does meet federal regulations by notifying the customer in clear and concise language of the charge. Further, all third party billing is also placed in its own separate section of the bill. Since these are the federal standards it likely follows that these rules should be universal for all states.
For the above reasons, The Business Council opposes this legislation.