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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
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
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.
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
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.
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