Sub. for Sub. H.B. 2649 would amend the Kansas Consumer Protection Act to prohibit "slamming"--the practice of a carrier switching a consumer's primary long distance carrier or local exchange carrier or adding other telecommunications services without obtaining the consumer's express authorization. The bill would include the following provisions.
Burden of Proof. The carrier requesting the change of carrier or change or addition of service would have the burden of proving express authorization by clear and convincing evidence. "Express authorization" is defined in the bill as an express, affirmative act by a consumer clearly agreeing to the change in the consumer's primary long distance carrier or local exchange carrier or to change or add to the consumer's other telecommunications services.
Prohibited Solicitation and Verification Methods. Local exchange carriers, telecommunications carriers, or any third-party verification entity would be prohibited from soliciting or verifying changes in carrier or changes or additions to service that could be potentially misleading, deceptive, or confusing. Other prohibited procedures for inducing a consumer's change in service or carrier would include: the use of a box to collect sweepstakes, contests, or drawings to gather authorization for change in carrier or change or addition to services; and methods not approved by the Federal Communications Commission or Kansas Corporation Commission.
Carrier's Liability to Consumer. Any carrier in violation of the Act would be required to refund to a consumer any amounts collected or credit any unpaid amounts resulting from slamming. Moreover, the bill would require the carrier to restore to a consumer any premiums the consumer may have forfeited through slamming.
Notice of Change. Within three business days of submitting an order to change a consumer's carrier, the carrier making the change would have to mail the consumer a letter describing the authorized change. The letter would have to contain information specified in the bill.
Penalties. Any carrier in violation of the Act would be subject to a civil penalty of not less than $5,000, nor more than $20,000, for each violation. The bill also would authorize the Kansas Corporation Commission to pursue any other sanctions deemed necessary to respond to a carrier's violations of the Act. Moreover, the Attorney General would be authorized to pursue violations of the other sections of the Kansas Consumer Protection Act.
Effective Date of Act. The Act would take effect upon publication in the Kansas Register.
Sub. for Sub. for H.B. 2649 has a colorful history. Its predecessor, Sub. for H.B. 2649, was recommended by the House Committee of the Whole. However, the bill was rereferred to the House Utilities Committee due to a discrepancy between the version recommended by the House Utilities Committee and the version considered and adopted by the House Committee of the Whole. After further discussion, the House Utilities Committee Chairman referred the bill to a subcommittee which proposed substantial amendments that were further modified by the entire Committee.
The House Committee amended the substitute bill to: eliminate the requirement that a letter of agency be the only recognized defense in response to allegations that the consumer did not authorize a change; require the carrier submitting an order to change a carrier or change or add a service to obtain express authorization (defined in the bill) for any change in carrier or change or addition to service, with the burden of proof to be clear and convincing evidence on the part of the carrier requesting the change or addition; require a carrier submitting a change order to inform the consumer of the change in writing within three business days after the order has been placed; increase the penalty for violations from a maximum of $5,000 to a minimum of $5,000 and a maximum of $20,000; and conform language in the bill to telecommunications terminology in existing law.
1. *Supplemental notes are prepared by the Legislative Research Department and do not express legislative intent. The supplemental note and fiscal note for this bill may be accessed on the Internet at http://www.ink.org/public/legislative/fulltext-bill.html.