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Re Generic Proceeding Considering the Promulgation of Telephone Rules Governing Billing and Collection and Customer Relations

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DOCKET 15957

I. Introduction/Background
By Order dated June 18, 2007, the Commission established a workshop to consider
proposed changes to the Commission’s Telephone Rules (T-Rules) for purposes of
addressing third-party billing issues. The staff proposed amendments to rule
T-16 (Billing and Collection). By Order dated July 10, 2007, the Commission
expanded the workshop to include staff’s proposed amendments to rule T-5
(Customer Relations). The proposed changes to rule T-5 are for purposes of
requiring carriers to provide full disclosure of billed charges when quoting
prices to an existing or potential customer.
The Commission workshop related to the above issues was conducted on July 25,
2007, in the Commission Hearing Complex. Attendees included representatives
from incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs), competitive local exchange
carriers (CLECs), toll providers, billing aggregators, and legal counsel
representing clients from various industry sectors. Staff modified the proposed
Telephone Rules based on the feedback received through the workshop.
By Order dated December 4, 2007, the Commission sought comments from interested
parties on the staff’s proposed rule changes as modified following the
Commission workshop of July 25, 2007. Comments were submitted by BellSouth
Telecommunications, Inc., d/b/a AT&TAlabama, Quest Communications Corporation,
and Verizon.[1] Joint comments were submitted by seventeen Incumbent Local
Exchange Carriers[2] (the “ILECs”) in Alabama.

The Comments of the Parties

General Jurisdictional Issues
The ILECs broached the issue of Commission jurisdiction over billing
and collection in light of the language contained in the Communications Reform
Act of 2005 (‘the Act’).
The ILECs express continuing concern, however, that some of the proposed
requirements would run afoul of the Alabama Communications Reform Act of 2005
(the "Reform Act" or "Act"), which states, in relevant part: "With respect to
retail billing requirements, after the enactment of this chapter, the commission
shall enforce only the Truth in Billing regulations prescribed by the Federal

Communications Commission." ALA. CODE § 37-2A-4(c) (1975 as amended). The FCC's
Truth in Billing requirements are found at 47 CFR 5 64.2401 (1999).[3]
AT&T suggests inclusion of the phrase “for telecommunications services regulated
by the Commission” in the first sentence of Rule T-5(A)(1)(a), again in
reference to the Act and the Commission’s jurisdiction.
Under the Act, the Commission retains exclusive complaint jurisdiction over
billing for residential telecommunications services including bundled offerings,
contract offerings, and stand alone services as well as all services over which
it retains general jurisdiction.
“Once a residential telecommunications service, a residential bundled offering,
or a residential contract offering is no longer subject to the general
jurisdiction of the commission as prescribed below, the commission shall
nevertheless retain exclusive complaint jurisdiction for the telecommunications
services provided, either as stand-alone services or as part of a bundled
offering or contract offering, for complaints arising out of the following:
(1) Inaccurate billing for telecommunications services.
(2) Billing of telecommunications services not ordered by or on behalf of the
(3) The establishment of disruption of telecommunications service.
…with respect to retail billing requirements, after August 1, 2005, the
Commission shall enforce only the Truth-in-Billing regulations prescribed by the
Federal Communications Commission.”[4]
In its initial Truth-in-Billing Order, the FCC explained that the
Truth-in-Billing guidelines are general in nature and affirmed that states are
free to adopt specific rules, consistent with the guidelines, to enforce the
FCC’s Truth-in-Billing requirements
“…we adopt minimal, basic guidelines that explicate carriers' binding
obligations pursuant to these broad principles. These principles and guidelines
are designed to prevent the types of consumer fraud and confusion evidenced in
the tens of thousands of complaints we have received. Moreover, we believe that
they represent fundamental principles of fairness to consumers and just and
reasonable practices by carriers.”[5]
“Notwithstanding the requirement of our 1998 Slamming Order and Further Notice
that states must accept the same verification procedures as prescribed by the
Commission, states will be free to continue to enact and enforce additional
regulation consistent with the general guidelines and principles set forth in
this Order, including rules that are more specific than the general guidelines
we adopt today. In addition to whatever powers they may have to enforce their
rules under state law, states also have express authority under §258 to enforce
the Commission's verification procedure rules, including the principles and
guidelines adopted here, with respect to intrastate services.”[6]

Under the Act, the Commission retains general jurisdiction over selected
residential and business services to include authority over pricing, billing,
and the provisioning of those services. Section 37-2A-4(c) of the Act
identifies services over which the Commission has complaint jurisdiction,
including all residential telecommunications services but excluding broadband
service.[7] The Commission’s Telephone Rule T-5 (Rule T-5) complements the
Commission’s complaint jurisdiction regarding the establishment or disruption of
service as referenced in 37-2A-4(c)(3) of the Act and is intended to require
adequate disclosure that minimizes consumer complaints about actual or perceived
deceptive marketing. The Rule requires full disclosure of actual and estimated
charges that the customer will be billed in any price(s) quoted by
telecommunication carriers.
At present, charges from third-party providers may be included on the telephone
bills of consumers without the telecommunications carrier first obtaining the
consumer’s prior consent. Additionally, telecommunication carriers do not
verify the nature and legitimacy of third-party charges through the affected
customer. These results seem inconsistent with Commission’s Telephone Rule T-16
(Rule T-16) which complements the Commission’s complaint jurisdiction under the
Act over disputes related to inaccurate billing[8] and for services billed to a
customer’s account that were not ordered for or on behalf of customers.[9] The
primary purpose of said rule is to reduce the opportunity for slamming and
consumer fraud from non-regulated, third-party providers and billing
aggregators. It accordingly appears appropriate to incorporate into
Commission’s Telephone Rule T‑16 measures aimed at preventing consumer fraud and
confusion regarding third-party billing that have come to the attention of the
Commission through numerous consumer complaints.
With respect to the Commission’s jurisdictional authority to adopt and enforce
the third-party billing regulations discussed herein, we note that the term
‘complaint jurisdiction’ is not defined in the Act. Therefore, the scope of the
Commission’s regulatory authority with respect to its retained complaint
jurisdiction is unclear. The FCC’s Truth-in-Billing Order clearly reserves for
states the express authority to enforce the FCC verification procedure rules,
but leaves states with the latitude to adopt rules that are more specific than
the FCC regulations which are intended as minimum guidelines. Absent the
adoption of such Alabama-specific rules, the Commission’s effectiveness at
reducing consumer complaints for those services over which it is granted
complaint jurisdiction would be severely compromised. Essentially, the
Commission would serve as a mere buffer between the consumer and the
telecommunications carriers for purposes of passing on consumer complaints with
no role whatsoever in effectuating measures aimed at eliminating or reducing the
underlying causes of the complaints. Such a result was almost certainly not
intended by the Alabama Legislature when it adopted the Act. We accordingly
find that reducing customer complaints related to third-party billings is of
significant public benefit as is the reduction of administrative costs to
telecommunications carriers that will result from implementation of the rules we
herein adopt. In consideration of the foregoing, we conclude that the

Commission’s complaint jurisdiction as retained under the Act authorizes the
adoption of measures aimed at minimizing the potential billing related consumer
complaints cited in §37-2A-4(c) of the Act so long as such measures do not
conflict with the minimum guidelines set forth by the FCC in its
Truth-in-Billing requirements.

Issues Regarding Proposed Telephone Rule T-5
The ILECs recommend that T-5(A)(1)(a) be revised to exclude
franchise fees from the items to be quoted and that the Rule not prohibit
prorated billing resulting from service initiation that begins after the start
of a billing cycle.[10] Verizon comments that carriers should be permitted to
provide separate quotes to the customer for recurring and nonrecurring charges
because, as a practical matter, it is difficult to lump the charges together
under one single quote. Further, Verizon recommends that carriers should be
permitted under T-5(A)(1)(a) to list the administrative, regulatory, and other
surcharges that will appear on the customer’s bill and provide an estimated
total of these charges upon request by the customer.[11] The Commission concurs
with the ILECs’ and Verizon’s recommended changes to T-5(A)(1)(a) and
incorporates the recommendations into the version of rule T-5 shown on Appendix
1 to this Order.
With regard to T-5(A)(1)(d), which requires that telecom service not
be established before customers actually received the requested written quotes,
Quest comments that requiring a written quote be received by the customer prior
to the establishment of service may result in unnecessary delays in establishing
the service that is detrimental to the customer.[12] The Commission recognizes
that such a requirement does leave the customer who asks for a written quote
without the option of establishing service before having first received the
quote. Therefore, the Commission is eliminating the requirement that a written
quote be received before service is established. The requirement for telephone
carriers to provide written quotes to customers upon request nevertheless
remains a part of the Rule as and is now found in T-5(A)(1)(a).
With regard to T-5(A)(1)(e), requiring that providers acknowledge in
their advertising of products to consumers that additional charges not included
in the advertised price may apply, AT&T recommends the addition of a statement
which clarifies that the requirement is only triggered if price(s) are
specifically referenced in the advertising or marketing of the service(s).[13]
The Commission concurs with the recommendation of AT&T and adds language
clarifying the requirement as shown in T-5(A)(1)(d) on Appendix 1 to this Order.
It should be noted that with the elimination of section T-5(A)(1)(d) in the
proposed version of rule T-5, the proposed section T‑5(A)(1)(e) is renumbered as
T-5(A)(1)(d) in the version of rule T-5 shown on Appendix 1 to this Order.
The ILECs recommend that subsection (3) be added to T-5(A) allowing
the provider to reference on-line price lists when marketing services to the
consumer rather than quoting prices, provided the customer agrees to on-line
price disclosure.[14] The Commission, however, does not believe that most
residential customers possess the required familiarity with telecommunications

terminology used by carriers nor are they familiar with all the pricing elements
required to establish service. Allowing providers to opt out of actually
quoting prices to customers is not likely to reduce customer confusion and
misunderstanding regarding expected versus billed charges, which is the
Commission’s intended goal of full price disclosure. The provider’s sales
representative, who should be knowledgeable about the service components and
possesses familiarity with the terminology, is far more capable of interpreting
the price lists and providing estimated billed charges than the customer. The
Commission believes that the additional time required for the sales
representative to quote prices to the customer is in the long-term the best
interests of both the consumer and the provider, likely resulting in less
customer dissatisfaction and fewer customer complaints. Therefore, the
Commission rejects the ILECs’ recommendation to allow providers the option for
referencing on-line price lists when quoting prices to customers.

Issues Regard Proposed Telephone Rule T-16
Verizon recommends that rule T-16 be revised to accommodate those
circumstances where a business customer, on behalf of itself and its agents, has
signed a contract with a carrier that allows for designated third-party
charges.[15] The Commission’s intent as it relates to rule T-16 is to protect
consumers from unscrupulous and/or deceptive marketing practices, not to erect
barriers that hamper commerce between consenting third parties and business
customers of telecommunications services. The Commission concurs with Verizon’s
recommendation regarding an exception for those business customers who knowingly
enter into agreements authorizing third-party billing and Section T-16(B) is
amended to incorporate that exception.
Regarding T-16(C)(1)(c), AT&T recommends omission of the word
“authorized” preceding the term “charges as part of the LEC’s bundled service
offerings” from those items that are not considered third-party charges. AT&T
argues that the mere allegation that a bundled charge is unauthorized can
arguably cause the exception for third-party charges to be lost. AT&T also
recommends that charges from LEC affiliates be included among those charges not
considered third-party provider charges.[16] The Commission concurs with AT&T’s
recommendations. The charges from LEC affiliates are added to the list of
exceptions and the word “authorized” omitted from the version of T-16(C)(1)(c)
shown on Appendix 2.
The ILECs recommend that T-16(C)(4) be revised “…to allow a LEC to
include its own toll free number for third-party billing inquiries in those
circumstances where it [is] authorized to respond to initial inquiries and has a
policy or agreement allowing for the LEC to grant credits for disputed
third-party billing…”[17] The Commission concurs with the recommendation
provided that LECs who take upon themselves this authority do so with full
knowledge that they are obligated to represent the customer’s interests with the
third-party provider and ensure that the third-party provider honors the credits
issued to the customer. Third-party providers who subsequently fail to honor
credits issued the customer by the LEC, under such an agreement referenced in

this paragraph, are subject to revocation of the Commission approval allowing
the third-party provider’s charges to be included on the bills of Alabama
telephone utility customers.
With regards to T-16(C)(5) which requires telephone utilities to
include a statement on the customer’s bill that failure to pay disputed
third-party charges will not result in disconnection of telephone services, AT&T
recommends the addition of alternative language as follows:
“or that failure to pay a separately-identified minimum amount, which does not
include any disputed third-party provider and/or billing aggregator charges, may
result in disconnection of local or toll service.”[18]
The Commission’s intent is for clear and unambiguous disclosure to customers
that their telephone service is not in jeopardy of being disconnected for
failure to pay disputed third-party charges. Listing a minimum payment
requirement that excludes third-party charges without also informing the
customer that third-party charges are excluded from the minimum payment
requirement does not comport with the Commission’s intent. Customers may still
believe they are required to pay the third-party charges, rather than dispute
them, out of fear that they will otherwise lose their telephone service. The
Commission, however, agrees with the alternative billing language recommended by
AT&T provided there is a reference in the statement, directly or by footnote,
that the minimum payment requirement excludes third-party charges.
Rule T-16 also requires third-party bill blocking be offered to
customers, upon request and free-of-charge, by those telephone utilities who
bill for third-party providers. Several LECs currently provide third-party bill
blocking service to customers, free, upon request. The Commission’s Telephone
Rules also requires customer consent before third-party bill blocking may be
removed. The ILECs recommend that T-16(C)(6) be revised to require third-party
bill blocking only when justified by repeated violations of the Commission’s
rules.[19] The ILECs did not, however, define how many times third-party
providers and telephone utilities are permitted to violate the Commission’s
rules before action to implement third-party bill blocking is mandatory.
Additionally, the ILECs did not address the issue of how the Commission is to be
informed of such violations. The Commission’s intent is that customers who
desire that third-party provider charges be excluded from their bill for
telephone service have the option of excluding such charges. The Commission is
well aware that deceptive and misleading practices are sometimes used by
third-party providers to obtain consumer subscriptions to their services.
Denying consumers the option of excluding third-party providers from their
telephone bill until such time as a predetermined “trigger” for violations of
the Commission’s rules has been reached is impractical to implement, is contrary
to the stated objective of the Commission in the proceeding, and essentially
represents an abrogation of the Commission’s responsibility to protect consumers
from unauthorized charges. Therefore, the Commission rejects the ILEC’s

recommended change to T-16(C)(6).
Rule T-16(C)(7) requires that customers be called and that they
give verbal approval before third-party bill blocking is removed. AT&T and the
ILECs recommend that consumer consent to removing a third-party bill block be by
consumer consent without the specific requirements for telephonic contact and
verbal approval.[20] The Commission acknowledges that there are other
legitimate ways to obtain consumer consent for removal of third-party bill
blocking including written as well as verbal approval. Such consent may also be
a direct result of the consumer contacting the telephone utility in order to
request removal of a third-party bill block. The Commission’s intent is that
third-party bill blocking not be removed by the telephone utility without prior
consent from the telephone subscriber. That consent can be either verbal or
written and may be at the initiation of the subscriber. Therefore, rule
T-16(C)(7) is amended to eliminate the overly restrictive requirements used for
obtaining customer approval to remove third-party bill blocking.
Under T-16(C)(13), telephone utilities are required to inform consumers about
the availability of third-party bill blocking and procedures for disputing
third-party provider charges either by publishing information about the service
in a prominent section of the telephone directory or annually via a bill insert.
AT&T requests that T-16(C)(13) be amended to allow telephone utilities to
utilize a bill message in lieu of a bill insert. The Commission concurs with
AT&T’s recommended change and amends T-16(C)(13) accordingly.
Rule T-16(C)(8) requires telephone utilities to remove from the consumer’s
telephone bill any third-party charge disputed by the consumer and reverse those
charges back to their source. Telephone utilities will not take any negative
action against any consumer that disputes third-party charges. The ILECs
recommend the following changes:
“T-16(C)(8) should be revised to reflect that billing is appropriate in those
instances where a dispute has been denied by proper administrative or legal
authority and to eliminate the inference that a telephone company cannot take
“any negative action” for non-payment of bundled services.”[21]
The Rule addresses third-party charges, whose source is from companies that are
not under the Commission’s jurisdiction. Furthermore, third-party charges, by
definition,[22] are not charges from the telephone utility for its services,
including bundled services, or those from its affiliates. No inference exists
in T-16(C)(8) or elsewhere in the Commission’s Telephone Rules that the
telephone utility cannot take negative action for non-payment of bundled
services. Such action is authorized where necessary. However, the Commission
cannot conclude that billing from companies over which it has no jurisdiction is
“appropriate”. The determination as to what charges from a third-party provider
are “appropriate” is under the purview of federal consumer law, state consumer
law, and the courts. Telephone utilities are paid a fee for inclusion of
third-party charges on the bills of their customers. In most cases, the
telephone utilities do not verify that the consumer actually subscribed to the

products or services of the third-party providers or what terms, conditions,
prices, etc. were included in any agreement between the third-party provider and
the telephone utility’s customer. Consequently, telephone utilities should not
assume upon themselves the authority to determine what third-party charges are
“appropriate”. The Commission’s intent is clear that any third-party charges,
as defined in Rule T-16(C)(1), that are disputed by the telephone utility’s
customer should be removed from the customer’s telephone bill and redirected
back to the third-party provider or billing aggregator for action. If, however,
the customer agrees to accept reduced charges or other terms offered by
third-party provider, their associated billing aggregator, or from the telephone
utility acting on behalf of the third-party provider or their billing
aggregator, the telephone utility may include those revised charges on the
customer’s bill. The Commission thus rejects the ILEC’s recommended changes to
Rule T-16(C)(10) requires third-party providers to refund charges
collected from a telephone utility customer for up to the previous six-months if
the Commission determines that the charges should be disallowed. The ILECs
recommend that an addendum be attached to T‑16(C)(10) which limits the
provisions of the section to any applicable statute of limitations under state
or federal law and any other limitations period agreed to between the company
and the customer.[23] In light of the ILECs’ recommendation, the Commission
scrutinizes more closely the requirements proposed under T-16(C)(10) and elects
to modify it.
The Commission has no jurisdiction over third-party providers but does exercise
authority over telephone utility billing for those services over which it has
general and complaint jurisdiction. The Commission concludes, however, that its
statutory obligation for ensuring compliance with truth-in-billing requirements
extends by association to charges from third-party providers if billed in
combination with telephone utility services for which the Commission exercises
billing jurisdiction. Therefore, the Commission expects third-party providers,
who find it advantageous to include their charges on telephone utility bills
rather than bill customers themselves, to comply with the same statute of
limitations requirements in the Commission’s Telephone Rules for telephone
utilities. The existing Commission rule that addresses telephone utility
overcharges to the customer, T‑5(C)(6), requires refunds for the prior
thirty-six (36) months of overcharges from the date of the customer’s objection
to the charges. The Commission, therefore, expects third-party providers to
abide by the same thirty-six (36) month refund requirement if the Commission
finds, after investigation, that such charges should be disallowed due to
billing error or because of fraudulent, deceptive, or misleading marketing
practices as referenced in T-16(C)(10)(a), shown in Appendix 2 to this Order.
In instances where third-party provider billing error or the use of fraudulent,
deceptive, or misleading marketing practices is not an issue, the Commission
concurs with the comments of the ILECs and refrains from setting any requirement
for third-party provider refund of charges previously paid by the customer. As
referenced in T-16(C)(10)(b), shown on Appendix 2 to this Order, third-party

providers or their billing aggregators are expected to cancel unpaid charges
disputed by the customer for the current billing period and, at their
discretion, credit or refund to the customer all or a portion of charges
previously paid by the customer.
AT&T and the ILECs recommend that the Commission provide telephone
utilities sufficient notice after withdrawing a third-party provider’s or
billing aggregator’s approval for including their charges on Alabama telephone
utility customer bills.[24] The Commission agrees with the recommendation and
amends T-16(C)(11)(b) to provide a thirty (30) day period from the date of the
Commission Order withdrawing such authority and the effective date of the
III. Implementation Procedures and Schedule
The effective date for amendments to Commission Telephone Rule T-5,
shown in Appendix 1, is the date of this Order. For Commission Telephone Rule
T-16, shown in Appendix 2 to this Order, the Commission requires that all
third-party providers and billing aggregators register with the Commission,
according to the requirements of Commission Rule T-16, by no later than October
1, 2008. The registration procedures and requirements will be provided via the
Commission’s website by no later than July 8, 2008. The Commission will publish
on its website no later than October 10, 2008, a list of all third-party
providers and billing aggregators approved by the Commission for including their
charges on the customer bills of Alabama telephone utilities. The remaining
provisions of Commission’s Telephone Rule T-16 shall become effective for
telephone utility customer bills issued after October 10, 2008 unless the
telephone utility, for good cause, requests a Commission waiver to extend the
effective date.
Telephone Rule T-5, as shown in Appendix 1 to this Order, are hereby approved.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, That Commission’s Telephone Rule T-16, as shown in
Appendix 2 to this Order, is hereby approved subject to the effective date
provided in the implementation schedule contained herein.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, That this Order shall be effective as of the date hereof.
Done at Montgomery, Alabama, this
of June, 2008.

Jim Sullivan, President

Jan Cook, Commissioner

Susan D. Parker, Commissioner

ATTEST: A True Copy

Walter L. Thomas, Jr., Secretary

(A) Rate and Special Charges Information
(1) Customer Quotes to Fully Disclose Total Billed Charges.
(a) For prospective customers of residential intrastate services (excluding
broadband services) and business services for which the Commission retains
jurisdiction under the Act, Telephone utilities shall disclose all nonrecurring
charges and recurring charges that will be included on the customer’s bill.
Quotes may be given orally unless the prospective customer requests a written
quote. Recurring charges may be quoted separately from nonrecurring charges.
Telephone utilities will list all administrative and regulatory surcharges that
will be included on the customer’s bill and provide an estimate of such
surcharges if requested by the customer. Administrative fees and regulatory
surcharges consist of those charges approved by the FCC for inclusion on the
customer bill. Telephone utilities need not include in the price quote to the
prospective customer state and local regulatory fees and taxes, including but
not limited to E911 fees, any franchise fees, and the Dual Party Relay fee but
the telephone utility will fully disclose that the quoted price excludes those
additional charges. This requirement is in no way intended to infringe on the
necessary practice of prorating bills required when a customer’s service is
initiated within rather than at the beginning of a billing cycle.
(b) For usage sensitive services included in subparagraph (a) above, telephone
utilities will disclose any nonrecurring and/or recurring charges for the
service, the usage sensitive rates, and any minimum charges for usage, if
(c) For promotional offerings, telephone utilities shall disclose to the
prospective customer all charges and fees referenced in subparagraph (a) and/or
(b) above to be billed during the promotion period and those applicable upon

expiration of the promotion period.
(d) Telephone utilities will not engage in deceptive or misleading practices
when advertising or marketing their services. All advertising and marketing that
includes the price of the service(s) will clearly indicate that additional
charges, fees, and taxes will apply if not included within the advertised and/or
marketed price.
(2) Where special charges apply, such as those for extraordinary construction,
labor, and special installation/assemblies not included in the telephone company
tariff on file with the Commission, consumers will be provided an estimate of
these charges. A written estimate of charges will be provided at the consumer’s

Billing And Collection
(A) Telephone companies shall comply fully with the FCC’s Truth in Billing
requirements and all Commission rules and orders that implement the Truth in
Billing requirements.
(B) Telephone companies shall not knowingly provide billing and collection for
telecommunication providers that do not possess a Commission approved
certificate of convenience and necessity with the associated authority to
provide the service(s) to be included on the consumer bill, or, for billing
aggregators or third-party providers not registered with and approved by the
Commission for inclusion of their charges on consumer telephone bills. However,
designated third-party providers authorized to bill for their products and/or
services on the monthly bill of a telephone utility customer, as referenced in a
written contract between the customer and the telephone utility, shall be
excluded from any of the registration requirements referenced herein.
(C) Third-Party Billing
(1) Definitions
(a) The term “third-party provider” is defined as any entity, excluding LEC
affiliates, not possessing a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity
from the Commission to provide telephone services in the state of Alabama.
Third-party providers’ charges are included on a consumer’s monthly telephone
bill based on an agreement between the consumer’s LEC and the third-party
provider or between the consumer’s LEC and a billing aggregator.
(b) The term “billing aggregator” is defined as any entity that serves as the

billing agent for a product or service offered by a third-party provider.
(c) The following are not considered charges from third-party service
providers: charges for local exchange carrier (LEC) services, charges for
services associated with the LEC’s bundled service offerings, charges from the
LEC’s affiliates, casual billing charges, charges from the subscriber’s
designated toll service provider to include those associated with bundled
service offerings, Internet service provider and/or wireless carrier charges (if
offered by the LEC or their affiliates, or the customer’s designated toll
carrier or their affiliates), and authorized regulatory fees, taxes, late fees,
and interest charges.
(d) The term “casual billing” consists of collect calls including third-party
collect calls, charges from dial around toll providers, directory assistance
charges, and charges for directory advertising.
(2) Third-party providers and/or their associated billing aggregators must
register with and be approved by the Commission before their charges may be
included on any consumer bill from telephone utilities subject to the
Commission’s regulatory authority. Commission approval is contingent upon
acceptance of the terms, conditions, and requirements for third-party billing as
referenced in the subparagraphs that follow. The Commission will identify
procedures for third-party providers to register with the Commission and
maintain a list of third-party providers and billing aggregators approved by the
Commission via the Commission’s website.
(a) Third-party providers that exclusively utilize the services of a Commission
approved billing aggregator as their billing agent for recovery of charges to
consumers through the telephone company bill need not register separately with
the Commission provided the third-party provider’s billing aggregator requests
separate authority for the third-party provider.
(b) In addition to providing the Commission with current and accurate
information about their company, the identity of clients whose charges will be
included on telephone company bills, and the names (and contact information) for
billing aggregator representatives that the Commission may contact directly for
purposes of resolving consumer disputes, billing aggregators must register with
the Commission those clients whose charges will be included on any telephone
company bill. Registration will include identifying information about the
client, and a description of the services that may be billed. Additionally,
billing aggregators will fully disclose, to the Commission satisfaction, the
method(s) utilized by the client for obtaining consumer subscription to the
client’s service(s) in such detail that the Commission may determine that
Alabama consumers are not being subjected to cramming or other fraudulent and
misleading marketing practices.

(3) Charges on telephone bills shall have sufficient detail and explanation to
allow a subscriber to understand the charge’s purpose and origin. Lists of fees
such as “service fee,” “membership,” “miscellaneous,” and “calling plan” are
deemed insufficient detail and are not permitted. The charge should, at a
minimum, describe the service, the date the service was provided to the
subscriber, and the name of the service provider.
(4) A toll-free number for the third-party provider or their designated billing
aggregator shall be listed on the subscriber’s bill from the telephone utility
so that subscribers can inquire about the nature of the charge and request
redress. If the telephone utility has a contract or policy agreement with the
third-party provider or their designated billing aggregator that authorizes the
telephone utility to respond to consumer inquiries and to grant credits to the
consumer for the third-party charges on the third-party provider’s behalf, the
telephone utility may alternatively list their own toll-free number for
subscriber inquiries regarding the applicable third-party charges.
(5) Telephone utilities that bill for third-party providers and/or billing
aggregators must indicate on the customer bill that telephone service will not
be disconnected for failure to pay disputed third-party charges. Alternatively,
the bill may include a statement that failure to pay a separately-identified
minimum amount, which does not include any disputed third-party provider and/or
billing aggregator charges, may result in disconnection of local or toll service
provided a reference is included on the bill that third-party charges are not
included in the minimum payment requirement. Telephone utility customer service
representatives, responding to consumer inquiries regarding third-party charges,
will fully disclose to consumers that their service will not be disconnected for
non-payment of disputed third-party charges.
(6) LECs are required to offer their customers, upon request and free of
charge, a service that blocks the inclusion of charges on the customer’s
telephone bill from third-party providers. Telephone companies that do not bill
for third-party providers and/or billing aggregators are exempt from this
(7) LECs will not include charges from a third-party or their associated
billing aggregator on the monthly bill of consumers who have subscribed to bill
blocking nor will they remove a third party provider charge block without the
prior verbal or written consent of the telephone subscriber.
(8) Telephone companies will remove from the consumer’s telephone bill any
third-party charge disputed by the consumer and reverse those charges back to
their source. Telephone companies will not take any negative action against any
consumer that disputes third-party charges.
(9) Third-party providers and billing aggregators will cooperate fully with any

Commission investigation involving charges included on a consumer’s telephone
bill and will fully disclose to the Commission marketing practices/methods used
for obtaining consumer subscription to their products or services. Charges may
be disallowed or reduced for the following reasons:
(a) When a charge for a product of service from a third-party provider
initially appears on the consumer’s telephone bill and the consumer disputes
having subscribed to the third-party product or service; or, when the
third-party provider is found to have overcharged the customer for the product
or services.
(b) When the Commission, upon investigation, determines that fraudulent,
deceptive, or misleading practices were utilized by the third-party provider to
obtain the consumer’s subscription for the product or service, or when the
Commission determines that the product or service has been misrepresented or
otherwise marketed to the consumer using exaggerated claims.
(10) The Commission does not consider consumer payment for charges included on
their telephone bill as acknowledgment that a consumer consents to or accepts
the products or services offered by third-party providers.
(a) When a consumer disputes charges from a third-party provider, the Commission
may, upon investigation referenced in T-16(C)(9)(a) and T-16(C)(9)(b), determine
that the charge(s) should be reduced or disallowed due to third-party provider
billing error or for reasons of fraudulent, deceptive, or misleading practices
used to obtain the customer’s subscription for products or services. For such
overcharges, the Commission expects third-party providers to comply with the
provisions of Commission Telephone Rule T-5(C)(6), which requires telephone
utilities to refund all over-billed charges collected from the consumer for up
to thirty-six (36) months prior to the date of the customer’s objection and to
cancel the customer’s subscription for the third-party provider’s products or
(b) In those situations where Commission investigation, per T-16(C)(9)(a) and
T-16(C)(9)(b), determines that no fraudulent, deceptive, or misleading practices
were utilized by the third-party provider to obtain the customer’s subscription
for products or services and/or the customer was not otherwise overcharged due
to billing error, the Commission expects third-party providers or their billing
aggregators, upon customer request, to remove disputed and unpaid charges for
the current billing period and, at the third-party provider’s discretion, to
refund or credit to the customer’s telephone utility bill, all or a portion of
disputed charges for any previous billing periods. Additionally, the Commission
expects third-party providers to cancel the customer’s subscription for the
third-party provider’s products or services at the customer’s request. This
requirement is in no way intended to discourage third-party providers or their
billing aggregators from collecting for products and services used by the

telephone utility customer or from negotiating with the customer to continue the
provision of their products or services to the customer based on terms mutually
agreeable to both the third-party provider and the telephone utility customer.
(c) The Commission expects refunds due the telephone utility customer to be
received by the customer within sixty (60) days of dispute resolution or,
alternatively, credited to the customer’s monthly telephone bill within sixty
(60) days of dispute resolution, if such credits are authorized by the
customer’s telephone utility based on agreement with the third-party provider or
their billing aggregator. The Commission expects that third-party providers
and/or billing aggregators will not initiate any negative credit reporting
action against the consumer for any refunds, credits, or cancellation of charges
referenced herein but in no way discourages third-party providers from pursuing
redress from the telephone utility customer for other unpaid charges.
(11) Third-party providers and/or billing aggregators that fail to maintain
updated registration information with the Commission, fail to comply with
Commission rules and Orders related to third-party billing practices, or, after
investigation by the Commission, are determined to be involved in cramming,
fraudulent, deceptive, or misleading marketing practices and/or failing to
promptly and adequately address Commission and/or consumer inquiries and
refunds, are subject to withdrawal of the Commission’s approval for telephone
utilities to include the third-party provider’s charges on telephone utility
customer bills.
(a) The Commission will notify the third-party provider and/or their billing
aggregator in writing of the Commission’s intent to reconsider their approval
status along with the reasons for the action, and will provide the third-party
provider and/or their billing aggregator an opportunity to respond in writing,
or by hearing, before taking formal action to withdraw the Commission’s approval
to include their charges on the customer bills of Alabama telephone utilities.
(b) Withdrawal of authority for third-party providers to include their charges
on telephone utility monthly bills will be by Commission Order with a minimum
thirty (30) days notice before the withdrawal becomes effective, allowing
telephone utilities sufficient prior notice of the Commission action.
(12) Third-party providers and/or billing aggregators whose approval is
withdrawn by the Commission are not authorized to utilize telephone company
bills to collect charges from consumers. Third-party providers and/or billing
aggregators whose approval has been withdrawn may request subsequent Commission
approval. Such approval may be granted based on satisfactory resolution of the
issues that led to the approval being withdrawn.
(13) Telephone companies are responsible for verifying that third-party
providers and billing aggregators have Commission approval before including

charges from these entities on any customer bill. Additionally, telephone
companies that include charges from third-party providers on their customer’s
monthly bills will publish in a prominent section of the telephone directory; or
alternatively, at least annually via bill message or bill insert with the
consumer’s bill, information concerning the procedures for disputing third-party
provider charges and for obtaining free, third-party bill blocking service.

[1] MCImetro Access Transmission Services LLC d/b/a Verizon Access Transmission
Services, TTI National, Inc., Teleconnect Long Distance Systems & Services
Company, MCI Communications Services, Inc. d/b/a Verizon Long Distance Company,
NYNEX Long Distance, Inc. d/b/a Verizon Enterprise Solutions, and Verizon Select
Services, Inc. (collectively, “Verizon”).
[2] Joint comments of: Blountsville Telephone Company, Inc.; Brindlee Mountain
Telephone Company; CenturyTel of Alabama, LLC; Farmers Telecommunications
Cooperative, Inc.; Graceba Total Communications, Inc.; Hayneville Telephone
Company, Inc.; Hopper Telecommunications Co., Inc.; Interstate Telephone
Company, Inc.; Millry Telephone Company, Inc.; Moundville Telephone Company,
Inc.; Otelco Telephone, LLC; National Telephone of Alabama, Inc.; Pine Belt
Telephone Company, Inc.; Roanoke Telephone Company, Inc.; TDS Telecom; Valley
Telephone Co., LLC; and, Windstream Alabama, LLC (collectively, the “ILECs”).
[3] The ILECs comments dated February 8, 2008, p.1.
[4] Code of Alabama, Section 37-2A-4(c)
[5] In the Matter of Truth-in-Billing and Bill Format, CC Docket No. 98-170,
Adopted April 15, 1999, part 5.
[6] Ibid, part 26.
[7] Code of Alabama, Section 37-2A-4(a)
[8] Ibid, Section 37-2A-4(c)(1)
[9] Ibid, Section 37-2A-4(c)(2)
[10] The ILECs comments, p.2.
[11] Verizon comments, dated February 1, 2008, p. 3.
[12] Quest comments, dated January 30, 2008, p.3.
[13] AT&T comments, dated February 1, 2008, p. 3.
[14] The ILECs comments, p. 2.
[15] Verizon comments, p.4.
[16] AT&T comments, p.3.
[17] The ILECs comments, p.4.
[18] AT&T comments, p.4.
[19] The ILECs comments, p.4.
[20] AT&T comments, p.5; and, The ILECs comments, p.4.
[21] The ILECs comments. p.4.
[22] Appendix 2 to this Order, Rule T-16(C)(1)
[23] The ILECs comments, p.5.
[24] AT&T comments, p.6 and The ILECS comments, p.3.



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