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News Release
Emergency Rule Request Denied: Commission Seeks
Better Way To Stop Local-Long Distance Slamming

February 5, 1999 (1999-009)
Contacts: Ron Eachus, Chairman, 503 378-6611; Roger Hamilton, Commissioner 503 378-6611; Joan H. Smith, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Ron Karten, Public Information Officer, 503 378-8962
Salem, Ore. – Oregon Public Utility Commission today declined to adopt a U S WEST proposal for temporary rules on "slamming," the unauthorized switching of customers from one company to another. The Commission said that legislation it has proposed to take the profit out of slamming is a more appropriate remedy.
U S WEST had proposed the rules be adopted on an emergency basis in anticipation of Monday, Feb. 8, when its customers will be able to choose another provider for so-called "local-long distance" calls previously provided only by U S WEST.
The Commission also said it had no evidence that slamming for this class of long distance calls is a problem, and that issuing new rules at the last minute would only be confusing and could disadvantage potential competitors of U S WEST.
The Commission has introduced legislation (SB 298) that would allow it to absolve customers for charges in the case of slamming and return these customers to their original carrier. The proposed rules would not only allow the Commission to absolve customers of charges from the slamming company. "Legislation to take the profit out of slamming will be a more effective customer protection than some last minute, temporary rules," said Ron Eachus, Commission Chairman.
The affected class of phone service stems from the 1984 breakup of AT&T, when marketing units called LATAs were created across the country. In Oregon, basically two LATAs divide the state – the Portland LATA and the Eugene LATA (map enclosed). Calls within a LATA (known as local-long distance) have traditionally been carried by the local monopoly, predominantly U S WEST and GTE in Oregon, and calls between LATAs have been carried by such competing long distance carriers as AT&T and MCI-Worldcom.
Customers of U S WEST have long been allowed to "dial around" to be served by competing carriers. Since 1997, however, customers of GTE Northwest and United Telephone of the NW (Sprint) have been freed to subscribe to competing long distance carriers for calls within a LATA without extra dialing. Starting February 8, customers of U S WEST will have that same ability. Today, local-long distance service accounts for about 20 percent of the total long distance calling by its customers.
The Commission said it would monitor the situation after Monday and was prepared to act quickly if it appeared slamming became a problem. Commission staff noted that after a year of experience with the same type of competition in GTE’s territory, the PUC had logged only one slamming complaint.
"This inches us closer to competition at the local level. The Commission in its decision not to adopt these rules today, is trusting that competitors will behave ethically and not abuse their opportunity to profitably enter this new market," said Commissioner Roger Hamilton.
The temporary rules were based on proposed rules being considered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Other companies, including AT&T and MCI-Worldcom, said it would be better to wait until the FCC adopted a final set of rules that applied uniformly across all states. Until then, existing FCC rules on slamming would enable the Commission to return customers who had been slammed to their original carriers.
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