CWA Applauds FCC Action to Protect Consumers from Unauthorized Wireless Charges

Friday, June 8, 2018

By expanding its truth-in-billing rules to include wireless companies, the FCC has taken an important step toward protecting consumers and customer service employees from corporate policies that encourage misleading sales tactics. However, CWA believes all wireline technology, including increasingly prevalent VoIP services, should be covered by the truth-in-billing rules.

In comments filed with the FCC, CWA encouraged the Commission to expand its rules regarding slamming and cramming by ensuring that they cover all voice customers, regardless of the technology used to deliver the voice service, noting, "Wireless and VoIP customers are entitled to the same protections as those using traditional landline service."

While today's actions strengthen the Commission's ability to take action against slammers and crammers, CWA encourages the FCC to continue to pursue this issue by investigating and addressing the underlying cause of deceptive sales practices – the unrealistic sales quotas and incentives that telecommunications companies impose on frontline sales and service employees.

It is critical that the FCC fully investigate the relationship between sales quotas, incentives, performance management systems and unauthorized and fraudulent charges on bills and propose regulations to prevent work-pressures that force companies’ sales and customer service representatives into untenable positions. Corporations that impose unrealistic sales incentive structures and punitive performance management systems force frontline employees to meet these quotas and benchmarks or face the loss of compensation, or even their jobs.

There is clear evidence to show that companies that impose unrealistically high sales quotas on sales and service representatives are responsible for driving unethical sales practices. That was the conclusion reached by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in its investigation of Wells Fargo Bank’s fraudulent account scandal, which resulted in some 3.5 million services being fraudulently added to customers’ accounts.

These kinds of employer sales and compensation policies that incent unethical sales practices are particularly acute at call centers operated by vendors under contract with communications companies and the authorized retail stores operated by independent owners selling the telecommunications carriers’ brand. The employees working at contract call centers or authorized dealers typically earn significantly lower pay than corporate employees. Telecommunications companies are laying off workers and increasing their use of outside contractors for customer service. Just this month, Verizon Wireless shifted the operation of five retail stores in West Virginia and Kentucky to a third-party vendor, and workers report steep pay cuts as a result.

CWA knows that good consumer and employment practices go hand in hand. That’s why this union works hard to promote fair compensation practices and working conditions for frontline employees as the key to ensuring quality customer service.

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