S 1618, S 771, HR 3888, and HR 4018
Anti-Slamming, Anti-Spamming, and Truth in Billing Bills

These topics are treated together on this page because they have been lumped together in legislation pending in the Congress.

Short Summary of Each Bill:

Short Summary of Each Topic:

Summary of S 771 and the Anti-Spamming Sections of S 1618 and HR 3888.   These bills would require that anyone who transmits an unsolicited commercial electronic mail message to include at the beginning of the body of the message: (1) the name, physical address, electronic mail address, and telephone number of the person who initiates transmission of the message or who created the content of it; and (2) a statement that further transmissions of such mail to the recipient by the person may be stopped at no cost to the recipient by sending a reply to the originating electronic mail address with the word "remove" in the subject line.  They bills would further give authority to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to regulate unsolicited electronic mail, including authority to conduct investigations, commence civil actions against individuals, and impose fines, penalties, and injunctions.

Summary of the Anti-Slamming Sections of S 1618 and HR 3888 IH.  These lengthy bills would amend the Communications Act of 1934 to prohibit a telecommunications carrier or a reseller of telecommunications services from submitting or executing a change in a phone user's provider of telephone exchange service or toll service, except as allowed by these bills and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) verification procedures.  Enforcement authority would be given to the FCC.  Consumers would not be given the option to refuse payment to illegal slammers.

These bills would require a carrier or reseller, in order to verify a subscriber's selection of a telephone exchange or toll service provider, to require the subscriber to: (1) affirm that the subscriber is authorized to select the service provider for that telephone number; (2) acknowledge the type of service to be changed by the selection; (3) affirm the intent to select the service provider; (4) acknowledge that such selection will result in a change of service provider; and (5) provide any other such information the FCC considers appropriate for the subscriber's protection.

These bills would require FCC selection verification procedures to: (1) preclude the use of negative option marketing; (2) provide for a complete copy of verification of a change of provider in oral, written, or electronic form; (3) require the retention of such verification in a manner and form and for such time as the FCC considers appropriate; (4) mandate that verification occur in the same language as that in which the change was solicited; and (5) provide for verification to be made available to a subscriber on request.

Phone service consumers who have been illegally slammed would not be allowed the option of refusing payment.  However, they would be allowed to pay the former carrier or reseller for all services provided by the unauthorized carrier or reseller.

These bills would also set penalties illegal slamming, and authorize the FCC to collect forfeitures and damages.  A State would be allowed to bring the following actions: (1) an action on behalf of its residents to recover damages; (2) a criminal enforcement action; and (3) an action for the assessment of civil penalties.  These bill would give the Federal courts exclusive jurisdiction over such actions, and would require FCC notification, and authorize FCC intervention.

These bills would not affect providers of commercial mobile service.

These bills would also require a telecommunications carrier operating or seeking to operate as a switchless reseller to furnish to the FCC a surety bond in a form and an amount determined by the FCC to be satisfactory for purposes of paying any: (1) fine or penalty imposed against the carrier for unauthorized changes in subscriber selections; (2) penalty imposed against the carrier regarding such operation; and (3) other fine, penalty, or forfeiture penalty imposed against the carrier under the Act.

Summary of "Truth in Billing" Bills.  These bills would requires any telecommunications carrier that includes charges in bills resulting from Federal regulatory action to: (1) specify in such bills the reduction in charges or fees for each class of customers resulting from any FCC regulatory action; (2) specify total monthly charges, usage charges, percentage charges, and premiums for each class of customers; (3) notify consumers one billing cycle in advance of changes in existing charges or imposition of new charges; and (4) disclose, upon subscription, total monthly charges, usage charges, percentage charges, and premiums for each class of customers.

These bills are directed at long distance carriers AT&T, MCI, and Sprint.  Their purpose is to dissuade these companies from passing on to their customers the contributions which the FCC requires them to make to subsidize universal service programs, along with statements on the bills explaining what the charges are for.  The FCC requires long distance carriers to subsidize several universal service programs, including phone service in high cost rural areas, and phone service, Internet access, and computer networking for schools and libraries (the "e-rate").  Supporters of the FCC managed e-rate fear that if customers read on their bills that they were being charged to support a government program, public support for the program would erode.  Similarly, supporters of support for rural areas fear that support for that program would diminish.  The bill is an attempt to gag the phone companies.  See also, Summary of Schools and Libraries Program.

Status.  S 1618 ES passed the Senate on May 12, 1998.  It includes the original McCain anti-slamming bill, S 1618 IS, the Murkowski anti-spamming bill, S 771, and the Rockefeller "Truth in Billing" amendment.  After passage of S 1618, Rep. Billy Tauzin, Chairman of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee, introduced HR 3888 IS, which parallels S 1618 ES, except that it lacks the "Truth in Billing" language.  However, supporters of the FCC run e-rate in the House soon introduced HR 4018 IS, which consists solely of a "truth in billing" provision.

There is widespread support for an anti-slamming bill in both the House and Senate.   However, some legislators would like to strengthen the remedies of consumers who have been illegally slammed.  The Murkowski anti-spamming language passed the Senate.   However, there is some difference of opinion as to what anti-spamming provisions are appropriate.  The Rockefeller "truth in billing" provision passed the Senate, but is very unlikely to be approved by the House.

HR 3888 passed the House Telecommunications Subcommittee on August 6, and the full Commerce Committee on September __.  It was approved by the House by a voice vote on October 12, 1998.

Legislative History.