Telephone slamming occurs when a telephone company changes your telephone service without your consent. Slamming is illegal, and you can protect yourself from being slammed by following a few tips.
- Know the names of your local and long distance telephone companies. Read your monthly bills carefully and check for different carrier names. If your bill looks different or unusual, or your charges are significantly higher, call your local telephone company.
- If you get any sweepstakes entries or checks in the mail, read all print carefully before accepting the check or entering the sweepstakes. These documents often authorize a change in your telephone service. Look for language that indicates a change in telephone service. If you have questions about the entry or check, call the telephone company who sent it and ask questions.
- If you get a solicitation call from a telephone company, listen carefully to what they are offering. Ask whether you can switch back to your old telephone company without charge if you are not satisfied with the new service. If you are not sure about whether you want to change companies, do not feel pressured into a decision.
- Be wary of telemarketers who claim that they are from your local or long distance carrier and tell you that they are calling to get your approval to put all charges in one "handy" bill. Also, be cautious if a telemarketer claims to need "verification" that they spoke with you and asks for information like your address and birth date.
- You can also ask the telephone solicitors to put you on their "do not call" list to prevent future calls from that company.
The best way to prevent having your telephone service switched without your permission is to tell your local telephone company that you want a "Preferred Carrier Freeze" on your long distance service. That means that any change in your service will have to be specifically okayed by you and that a telemarketer cannot tell your carrier that you approved the change.
If you have been slammed, you can try to resolve the problem by taking the following steps:
- Call your old telephone company, explain that you have been slammed and ask that they switch you back. There should be no charge to switch back.
- Contact the company that slammed you. Tell them you did not agree to switch to that company and ask to see proof that you switched phone companies.
- Federal law states you are not liable for all slammed charges for thirty days after an unauthorized change (this rule applies so long as the consumer has not yet paid the unauthorized carrier). Tell the company that slammed you to take the excess charge off your bill.
If you are unable to resolve the problem on your own, consider filing a complaint with the Iowa Utilities Board, 1375 E. Court Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50319-0069 (telephone 877.565.4450 or 515.725.7321.
Iowa Legal Aid provides help to low-income Iowans.
To apply for help from Iowa Legal Aid:
- Call 800-532-1275.
- Iowans age 60 and over, call 800-992-8161.
- Apply online at iowalegalaid.org
If Iowa Legal Aid cannot help, look for an attorney on “Find A Lawyer.” A private attorney there can talk with you for a fee of $25 for 30 minutes of legal advice.
*As you read this information, remember this article is not a substitute for legal advice.