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    Edelman, Combs, Latturner, & Goodwin, LLC

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    Suite 1500
    Chicago, IL 60603

    info@edcombs.com
    Phone: 312-739-4200
    Fax: 312-419-0379


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    BIRCH COMMUNICATIONS TO PAY $6.1 MILLION TO SETTLE INVESTIGATION INTO DECEPTIVE MARKETING AND BILLING PRACTICES

    For Immediate Release
    BIRCH COMMUNICATIONS TO PAY $6.1 MILLION TO SETTLE
    INVESTIGATION INTO DECEPTIVE MARKETING AND BILLING
    PRACTICES
    Customers will receive at least $1.9 million in refunds as part of the settlement
    WASHINGTON, December 29, 2016 – The Federal Communications Commission today announced a
    settlement with Birch Communications that resolves an Enforcement Bureau investigation into whether
    the company engaged in deceptive and abusive marketing practices.

    Specifically, the investigation concerned whether Birch “slammed” consumers by switching their
    preferred phone carriers without authorization, “crammed” unauthorized charges on its customers’ bills
    and engaged in deceptive marketing. Abusive practices, like “cramming” and “slamming,” result in
    telephone consumers paying for unauthorized services and expending significant time and effort to seek
    to reverse charges and services they never requested. Under the terms of the settlement, Birch will pay a
    $4.2 million penalty, refund at least $1.9 million to consumers who filed complaints about unauthorized
    carrier changes or unauthorized charges within the past two years and adopt a compliance plan.
    “Consumers have a right to expect honest talk and fair dealing from any phone company,” said
    Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc. “It is plainly unacceptable for any carrier to misrepresent its
    identity or purpose in order to mislead consumers into switching their preferred provider and to add
    unauthorized charges to consumer bills. Today’s settlement ensures that all of Birch’s customers will
    enjoy greater protections and that those who were unlawfully charged will get their money back.”
    Birch is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. The Bureau launched the investigation in 2015 after
    reviewing hundreds of consumer complaints filed with the FCC, state regulatory authorities and the Better
    Business Bureau. The Bureau’s investigation found that Birch’s telemarketers repeatedly misrepresented
    their identity and the purpose of their telemarketing calls when contacting potential customers, including
    claiming to be affiliated with the consumers’ own carriers, in order to fraudulently switch consumers to
    Birch’s service and place unwanted charges on their bills. In many cases, Birch assessed substantial early
    termination fees against consumers when they cancelled the unauthorized and unwanted service.
    Consumers, including small businesses and law offices, spent a considerable amount of time and effort
    trying to return to their preferred carriers and restore the services they had before the unauthorized
    switches.
    In addition to the $4.2 million fine and the $1.9 million in consumer refunds, the settlement requires
    Birch to record all sales calls, verify any changes to a consumer’s preferred carrier, provide enhanced
    customer notice about early termination fees, promptly investigate consumer complaints about
    unauthorized charges and carrier changes, designate a senior corporate manager as a compliance officer,
    and file compliance reports with the Bureau for five years.

    Slamming and cramming are “unjust and unreasonable” practices prohibited by the Communications Act.
    In the last five years, the Commission has taken more than 30 enforcement actions against carriers for
    cramming and slamming, totaling more than $360 million in proposed penalties and payments to the U.S.
    Treasury.

    For more information about the FCC’s rules protecting consumers from unauthorized charges on
    telephone bills, see the FCC consumer guides regarding cramming at
    https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/cramming-unauthorized-charges-your-phone-bill and slamming at
    https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/slamming-switching-your-authorized-telephone-company-
    without-permission.

    To file a complaint with the FCC, go to https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us or contact the
    FCC’s Consumer Center by calling 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-
    888-835-5322) TTY; faxing 1-866-418-0232; or by writing to:

    Federal Communications Commission
    Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
    Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
    445 12th Street, SW
    Washington, DC 20554

    The Consent Decree is available at: https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-16-1458A1.pdf.
    ###
    Office of Media Relations: (202) 418-0500
    TTY: (888) 835-5322
    Twitter: @FCC
    www.fcc.gov/office-media-relations