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TELEPHONE DISCLOSURE AND DISPUTE RESOLUTION
AN ACT To protect the public interest and the future development of pay-per-call
technology by providing for the regulation and oversight of the applications and growth of the pay-per-call industry, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. (15 U.S.C. 5701) SHORT TITLE, FINDINGS.
(a) SHORT TITLE.—This Act may be cited as the “Telephone Disclosure and Dispute Resolution Act". 1 (b) FINDINGS. - The Congress finds the following:
(1) The use of pay-per-call services, most commonly through the use of 900 telephone numbers, has grown exponentially in the past few years into a national, billion-dollar industry as a result of recent technological innovations. Such services are convenient to consumers, cost-effective to vendors, and profitable to communications common carriers.
(2) Many pay-per-call businesses provide valuable information, increase consumer choices, and stimulate innovative and responsive services that benefit the public.
(3) The interstate nature of the pay-per-call industry means that its activities are beyond the reach of individual States and therefore requires Federal regulatory treatment to protect the public interest.
(4) The lack of nationally uniform regulatory guidelines has led to confusion for callers, subscribers, industry participants, and regulatory agencies as to the rights of callers and the oversight responsibilities of regulatory authorities, and has allowed some pay-per-call businesses to engage in practices that abuse the rights of consumers.
(5) Some interstate pay-per-call businesses have engaged in practices which are misleading to the consumer, harmful to the public interest, or contrary to accepted standards of business practices and thus cause harm to the many reputable businesses that are serving the public.
(6) Because the consumer most often incurs a financial obligation as soon as a pay-per-call transaction is completed, the accuracy and descriptiveness of vendor advertisements become crucial in avoiding consumer abuse. The obligation for accuracy should include price-per-call and duration-of-call information, odds disclosure for lotteries, games, and sweepstakes, and obligations for obtaining parental consent from callers under 18.
1 Public Law 102–556, 106 Stat. 4181, approved Oct. 28, 1992.
(7) The continued growth of the legitimate pay-per-call industry is dependent upon consumer confidence that unfair and deceptive behavior will be effectively curtailed and that consumers will have adequate rights of redress.
(8) Vendors of telephone-billed goods and services must also feel confident in their rights and obligations for resolving billing disputes if they are to use this new
marketplace for the sale of products of more than nominal value.
TITLE 1—CARRIER OBLIGATIONS AND
CONSUMER RIGHTS CONCERNING PAY-PER-CALL TRANSACTIONS
SEC. 101. (47 U.S.C. 228] AMENDMENT TO COMMUNICATIONS ACT OF
[Section 101 added a new section 228 to the Communications Act of 1934.] SEC. 102. (47 U.S.C. 227 nt] TECHNICAL AMENDMENT.
Section 102 contained a technical amendment to the effective date provisions of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (which was an amendment to section 227 of the Communications Act of 1934).]
TITLE II-REGULATION OF UNFAIR AND
DECEPTIVE ACTS AND PRACTICES IN CONNECTION WITH PAY-PER-CALL SERVICES
SEC. 201. (15 U.S.C. 5711] FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION REGULA
(1) ADVERTISING REGULATIONS.—The Commission shall prescribe rules in accordance with this subsection to prohibit unfair and deceptive acts and practices in any advertisement for pay-per-call services. Such rules shall require that the person offering such pay-per-call services,
(A) clearly and conspicuously disclose in any advertising the cost of the use of such telephone number, including the total cost or the cost per minute and any other fees for that service and for any other pay-per-call service to which the caller may be transferred;
(B) in the case of an advertisement which offers a prize or award or a service or product at no cost or for a reduced cost, clearly and conspicuously disclose the odds of being able to receive such prize, award, service, or product at no cost or reduced cost, or, if such odds are not calculable in advance, disclose the factors determining such odds;
(C) in the case of an advertisement that promotes a service that is not operated or expressly authorized by a Federal agency but that provides information on a Federal program, include at the beginning of such advertisement a clear disclosure that the service is not authorized, endorsed, or approved by any Federal agency;
(D) shall not direct such advertisement at children under the age of 12, unless such service is a bona fide educational service;
(E) in the case of advertising directed primarily to individuals under the age of 18, clearly and conspicuously state in such advertising that such individual must have the consent of such individual's parent or legal guardian for the use of such services;
(F) be prohibited from using advertisements that emit electronic tones which can automatically dial a pay-per-call telephone number;
(G) ensure that, whenever the number to be called is shown in television and print media advertisements, the charges for the call are clear and conspicuous and (when shown in television advertisements) displayed for the same duration as that number is displayed;
(H) in delivering any telephone message soliciting calls to a pay-per-call service, specify clearly, and at no less than the audible volume of the solicitation, the total cost and the cost per minute and any other fees for that service and for any other pay-per-call service to which the caller may be transferred; and
(I) not advertise an 800 telephone number, or any other telephone number advertised or widely understood to be toll free, from which callers are connected to an access number for a pay-per-call service.
(2) PAY-PER-CALL SERVICE STANDARDS.—The Commission shall prescribe rules to require that each provider of pay-percall services
(A) include in each pay-per-call message an introductory disclosure message that
(i) describes the service being provided;
(ii) specifies clearly and at a reasonably understandable volume the total cost or the cost per minute and any other fees for that service and for any other pay-per-call service to which the caller may be transferred;
(iii) informs the caller that charges for the call begin at the end of the introductory message;
(iv) informs the caller that parental consent is required for calls made by children; and
(v) in the case of a pay-per-call service that is not operated or expressly authorized by a Federal agency but that provides information on any Federal program, a statement that clearly states that the service is not authorized, endorsed, or approved by any Federal agency;
(B) enable the caller to hang up at or before the end of the introductory message without incurring any charge whatsoever;
(C) not direct such services at children under the age of 12, unless such service is a bona fide educational service;
(D) stop the assessment of time-based charges immediately upon disconnection by the caller;
(E) disable any bypass mechanism which allows frequent callers to avoid listening to the disclosure message described in subparagraph (A) after the institution of any price increase and for a period of time sufficient to give such frequent callers adequate and sufficient notice of the price change;
(F) be prohibited from providing pay-per-call services through an 800 number or other telephone number advertised or widely understood to be toll free;
(G) be prohibited from billing consumers in excess of the amounts described in the introductory message and from billing for services provided in violation of the rules prescribed by the Commission pursuant to this section;
(H) ensure that any billing statement for such provider's charges shall
(i) display any charges for pay-per-call services in a part of the consumer's bill that is identified as not being related to local and long distance telephone charges; and
(ii) for each charge so displayed, specify, at a minimum, the type of service, the amount of the charge, and the date, time, and duration of the call;
(I) be liable for refunds to consumers who have been billed for pay-per-call services pursuant to programs that have been found to have violated the regulations prescribed pursuant to this section or title III of this Act or any other Federal law; and
(J) comply with such additional standards as the Commission may prescribe to prevent abusive practices.
(3) ACCESS TO INFORMATION.—The Commission shall by rule require a common carrier that provides telephone services to a provider of pay-per-call services to make available to the Commission any records and financial information maintained by such carrier relating to the arrangements (other than for the provision of local exchange service) between such carrier and any provider of pay-per-call services.
(4) EVASIONS.—The rules issued by the Commission under this section shall include provisions to prohibit unfair or deceptive acts or practices that evade such rules or undermine the rights provided to customers under this title, including through the use of alternative billing or other procedures.
(5) EXEMPTIONS.—The regulations prescribed by the Commission pursuant to paragraph (2)(A) may exempt from the requirements of such paragraph
(A) calls from frequent callers or regular subscribers using a bypass mechanism to avoid listening to the disclosure message required by such regulations, subject to the requirements of paragraph (2)(E); or
(B) pay-per-call services provided at nominal charges, as defined by the Commission in such regulations.
(6) CONSIDERATION OF OTHER RULES REQUIRED.-In conducting a proceeding under this section, the Commission shall consider requiring, by rule or regulation, that providers of payper-call services
(A) automatically disconnect a call after one full cycle of the program; and
(B) include a beep tone or other appropriate and clear signal during a live interactive group program so that callers will be alerted to the passage of time.
(7) SPECIAL RULE FOR INFREQUENT PUBLICATIONS.—The rules prescribed by the Commission under subparagraphs (A) and (G) of paragraph (1) may permit, in the case of publications that are widely distributed, that are printed annually or less frequently, and that have an established policy of not publishing specific prices, advertising that in lieu of the cost disclosures required by such subparagraphs, clearly and conspicuously disclose that use of the telephone number may result in a substantial charge.
(8) TREATMENT OF RULES.-A rule issued under this subsection shall be treated as a rule issued under section 18(a)(1)(B) of the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 57a(a)(1)(B).
(b) RULEMAKING.—The Commission shall prescribe the rules under subsection (a) within 270 days after the date of enactment of this Act. Such rules shall be prescribed in accordance with section 553 of title 5, United States Code.
(c) ENFORCEMENT.-Any violation of any rule prescribed under subsection (a) shall be treated as a violation of a rule respecting unfair or deceptive acts or practices under section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 45). Notwithstanding section 5(a)(2) of such Act (15 U.S.C. 45(a)(2)), communications common carriers shall be subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission for purposes of this title. SEC. 202. (15 U.S.C. 5712] ACTIONS BY STATES.
(a) IN GENERAL.-Whenever an attorney general of any State has reason to believe that the interests of the residents of that State have been or are being threatened or adversely affected because any person has engaged or is engaging in a pattern or practice which violates any rule of the Commission under section 201(a), the State may bring a civil action on behalf of its residents in an appropriate district court of the United States to enjoin such pattern or practice, to enforce compliance with such rule of the Commission, to obtain damages on behalf of their residents, or to obtain such further and other relief as the court may deem appropriate.
(b) NOTICE.—The State shall serve prior written notice of any civil action under subsection (a) upon the Commission and provide