6. Billing Telephone Companies and Customer Disputes

Another important role of the Billing Telephone Companies is as a back up to the product or service provider's dispute resolution process. As Staff noted in their Workshop Report:

The current process for disputing a charge would appear to be quite favorable to the consumer. By simply calling the LEC and stating that all attempts to resolve the cramming dispute with the service provider have failed, the LEC will remove the charge. The incentive is for the LEC to maintain their good standing with the customer, and can do so on the cheap because the LEC [is reimbursed] from the actual service provider for any charge-reversals, which may also be subject to an additional inquiry charge.

The billing services contract is the source of this process of allowing customers that fail to obtain satisfaction from the product or service provider to turn to the Billing Telephone Companies (local exchange carrier). Assuming LECs implement the process as described, it appears to provide consumers a relatively quick and inexpensive means of resolving these disputes. Unfortunately, too few consumers are aware of and use this process. Therefore, we direct the Billing Telephone Companies to undertake a consumer education effort to inform consumers of this option and file a proposed consumer education plan no later 45 days after the effective date of this order. Such a plan shall include the use of bill inserts and shall have particular components directed at low-income and non-English-speaking households, including the availability of multi-lingual bills. The specifics of the Consumer Education Plan are set out in Attachment C.

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