CPUC Reins In AT&T, But Not Far Enough

CPUC decision doesn’t go far enough to protect consumers from AT&T’s deceptive marketing practices.

For Immediate Release From The Utility Reform Network

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) today agreed with consumer advocates that at least some of AT&T’s abusive marketing practices should be stopped. In a unanimous decision, the Commission reinstituted a requirement that AT&T must disclose to customers that basic, stand-alone service is still available at a reasonable price.

But TURN, The Utility Reform Network, said the CPUC did not go far enough in reinstating rules designed to stop deceptive marketing by AT&T. The rules originally put in place to stop marketing abuses by AT&T, were eliminated by the CPUC during its rush to phone deregulation, absent any finding that the protections were no longer necessary. Yet the CPUC failed to reinstitute many key consumer protections, including a requirement that AT&T obtain a customer’s explicit consent before subjecting the customer to a marketing pitch and a requirement that AT&T fully inform customers of all of their options, including the choice of purchasing individual services as opposed to bundles. The Commission did, however, order AT&T to provide customers with understandable information about low-cost basic phone service.

"It is vitally important for customers to know that basic phone service is still affordable," said TURN staff attorney Bill Nusbaum. "But this is a company with a proven track record of abusive marketing. This decision does not send a strong enough message to AT&T that pressuring customers, and withholding information from them, is unacceptable. On top of that, it does not send a strong enough message to consumers that their interests are being protected by the CPUC."