On December 6, 2013, the FCC issued a rare Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture, against Start Wireless Group, Inc. d/b/a Page Plus Cellular (“Page Plus”), for failing to file annual section 43.61 international traffic and revenue reports for the past eight years.  Fines for this particular violation are very rare.  In fact, we

After six NALs and an Enforcement Advisory, the FCC is not finished with prepaid calling card marketing practices. On February 7th, the Enforcement Bureau issued a Notice of Apparent Liability against a prepaid card provider for failing to respond to the Bureau’s investigation.  This action serves both as a reminder to carriers of the importance of responding fully to FCC investigations and as a warning to prepaid card carriers that, despite the previous actions, the FCC’s investigations are likely to continue.  Any provider that receives or has received an inquiry from the FCC Enforcement Bureau should carefully consider its response. 

Continue Reading FCC Prepaid Card Investigations Continue; Bureau Proposes $25,000 Fine for Non-Response

Back in 2007, in response to the pretexting controversy, the FCC strengthened its CPNI rules to require telecommunications carriers to authenticate a subscriber’s identity before providing call detail information.  The FCC rules required carriers to authenticate customers with a password or some other information that does not rely upon "readily available biographical information" before

In FCC v. Fox Television Stations, Inc., the US Supreme Court reversed FCC indecency fines against two TV broadcast networks.   The decision has garnered a lot of attention in the broadcast industry and conventional media (and rightly so).   News stories describe the decision as a clear victory for broadcasters.  Many commentators also noted the apparently shaky ground of the 1978 Pacifica decision finding George Carlin’s “Filthy Words” monologue indecent.   (Including this decidedly non-legal discussion.) These are topics of great interest to the broadcast industry.

For all its significance in the broadcast world, the decision is equally significant for non-broadcasters.  In Fox Television, the Supreme Court sets a high bar for FCC enforcement of general obligations under the Communications Act, not just the FCC’s indecency standard.  As a result, Fox Television will constrain the FCC’s enforcement abilities in several prominent areas of common carrier regulation as well.  Most significantly, we believe that Fox Television limits the FCC’s ability to impose fines for violations of Section 201(b)’s prohibition on unjust and unreasonable practices.  Unless the FCC has provided fair notice to common carriers of the conduct required under Section 201(b), it may not impose sanctions in the enforcement context.

Continue Reading What FCC v. Fox Television Means for Non-Broadcasters

In 2011, the FCC was extremely active in the prepaid calling card area, proposing $25 million in fines and investigating several other prepaid card providers.  While the FCC has exclusive jurisdiction over prepaid cards when provided by common carriers, the Federal Trade Commission also has jurisdiction over non-carrier marketers of prepaid calling cards.  This case is a reminder of the shared jurisdiction between the agencies.   

Continue Reading Prepaid Card Provider Settles Failure to Disclose Action for $2.3 Million

On Friday, the FCC proposed a $25,000 fine against a carrier that failed to respond to a Commission investigation.  In the NAL, the Enforcement Bureau stated that Net One International had failed to respond to a letter of inquiry launching an investigation into its practices.  According to the NAL, the Bureau sent the letter of

Yesterday, the FCC proposed another $5 million fine for insufficient disclosures on prepaid calling cards.  This action is best understood as an echo to the FCC’s action in September, when it proposed four similar $5 million fines against other prepaid calling card providers.  In fact, I believe that this NAL has been circulating at the FCC since shortly before the other four NALs were released.

2011 has been highlighted by an active FCC using Section 201(b) of the Act to engage in consumer-focused enforcement.  Although the FCC’s authority to use 201(b) in this way is in doubt, the lesson for carriers is clear, especially in the prepaid market.  Carriers should clearly and conspicuously disclose all material terms and conditions of their services.  Failure to do so risks claims of deceptive marketing or cramming. 

Continue Reading FCC Proposes Another $5 Million Prepaid Card Fine

We noted in April 2010 that the FCC was investigating prepaid calling card provider disclosures.  We suspected that action was likely when we saw four notices of apparent liability against unidentified companies appear on the FCC’s items on circulation list in late June.  Yesterday, it became official:  the FCC announced four separate Notices of Apparent Liability against prepaid calling card providers for insufficient disclosures to consumers of its prepaid calling card rates.  in each case, the FCC proposes a fine of $5 million for "unjust and unreasonable" practices in violation of Section 201(b) of the Communications Act.

The NALs follow a recent trend of large fines proposed against multiple carriers as a warning to the entire industry.  Other prepaid card providers should examine their disclosures carefully to ensure that they clearly and conspicuously disclose all terms and conditions associated with the cards they sell.

Continue Reading FCC Proposes $5 Million Fines Against Multiple Prepaid Card Providers

For a while, failure to pay per-call compensation to payphone owners was as much of an enforcement focus as is failure to pay the Universal Service Fund today.  The FCC resolved one of its legacy cases this week, agreeing to a settlement with prepaid card provider Compass, Inc. d/b/a Compass Global Inc.  Notably, the Bureau settled the $466,000 NAL for $20,000 based in part on an inability to pay.

Continue Reading Prepaid Card Provider Settles Payphone Compensation NAL

The Commission continues to clear the decks from its 2009 Omnibus CPNI NAL.  Apparently having exhausted all of the cases warranting revocation of the NAL and meriting a consent decree, the Enforcement Bureau release five forfeiture orders for failure to file the 2007 Annual CPNI Certification.  These orders all involve a prepaid card provider and