Declaratory Ruling Changes Truth-in-Billing Requirements
On March 15, 2018, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) released a Declaratory Ruling in response to eight key questions posed by a Federal District Court regarding telecommunications carriers’ bill descriptions and whether they violate the Commission’s Truth-in-Billing (“TIB”) rules and Section 201(b) of the Communications Act of 1934.
The eight questions attempted to hit at the core of billing requirements under Section 64.2401(b) of the TIB rules. Ultimately, the FCC concluded:
- Listing charges on a bill with no accompanying description violates Section 64.2401(b) and thus Section 201(b), except where context and the mere name of the charge makes its nature so obvious to the consumer that no description is necessary;
- “Unclear” billing information is in violation, even if not specifically “misleading”;
- Stating a “recurring fee” with no elaboration violates the rules and Section 201(b), even if non-misleading;
- “Late Fee” is generally sufficiently clear to consumers;
- A line item charge for receiving a special rate simply labeled “recurring fee” without additional description or clarifying context is unclear and violates the Truth-in-Billing rules and Section 201(b);
- Charging for “other fees” is unclear and a violation of the rules.
- The TIB rules focus on clarity and formatting not content/the actual charges billed.
Compliance with federal (as well as state) TIB rules is important not only to avoid FCC rule violations, but also to protect against negative audit findings. Small changes in language can make a world of difference when describing telecommunications services, and the attorneys at The CommLaw Group are well-versed on these complexities. Auditors may misunderstand billing terms leading to severe financial consequences. We encourage clients to contact their assigned attorneys to review invoice language to ensure compliance with federal and state TIB rules as well as tax laws.
If you have any questions about the Declaratory Ruling, please contact the attorney assigned to your account or Jackie Neff at 703-714-1314 or firstname.lastname@example.org.