On October 16, 2012, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau released a Public Notice seeking comment on a Petition for Declaratory Ruling addressing the applicability of the Communications Act and the FCC rules regarding Truth-in-Billing.
The Petition was filed by Gregory Manasher, Frida Sirota and NECC Telecomm, who are parties to a law suit pending before the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Manasher, et al. v. NECC Telecomm. Mr. Manasher and Ms. Sirota allege in the case that NECC violated section 64.2401 of the FCC rules and section 201(b) of the Communications Act by billing, charging and collecting monies that were unjustly, unreasonably and deceptively billed as “recurring fees” and “other fees,” and that NECC billed them for amounts that exceeded the actual cost of the telephone services used. NECC disagrees, and argues that a violation of section 64.2401 does not necessarily constitute an “unjust and unreasonable” act in violation of section 201(b) of the Communications Act. At the request of Mr. Manasher and Ms. Sirota, the court referred a list of questions to the FCC for consideration, which are set out in the Petition for Declaratory Ruling.
A copy of the Petition is available here.
The issues addressed in the Court referral are important to retail service providers throughout the communications industry. Due to the complex nature of many communications services and associated taxes and regulatory fees, coupled with the lack of clear guidance from the FCC regarding what constitutes acceptable billing practices, the industry often struggles to draw appropriate lines. The instant proceeding could result in greater clarity regarding the FCC’s expectations when it comes to Invoice Line Item descriptions. Importantly, the proceeding could result in a determination that merely “unclear” billing descriptions are actionable under the Communications Act, even if those descriptions are neither “misleading” nor “deceptive.”
Comments and Reply Comments on the Petition are due November 15th and November 30th, respectively.
Clients with questions on the Petition for Declaratory Ruling should contact the attorney assigned to their account.