WASHINGTON -- The Federal Communications Commission warned consumers yesterday that sales representatives for long-distance telephone companies may be switching customers' long-distance carriers without their authorization, an illegal practice known as "slamming."
Telephone customers may switch long-distance carriers whenever they like, and rival long-distance carriers have been competing in a bitter battle to lure customers.
Under federal rules, a carrier is allowed to instruct local telephone companies that a customer has decided to switch, and the telephone company carries out the switch.
In the last year, regulators have received thousands of complaints from customers who said their service had been switched without their permission.
Yesterday, the FCC told customers that if they are switched without permission, they have the right to be switched back at no cost. It also warned consumers who have asked for information from a long-distance carrier to make it clear they are not ordering the service.
Some people have proposed that the FCC require long-distance carriers to submit written authorization from customers before requesting the switch of carriers.
Commission officials have said such a move would make it difficult for companies to compete.