When the phone rings or the fax hums we expect the interruption to be worthwhile. Likewise we expect the charges on our phone bill to be accurate and legitimate. If you receive unsolicited faxes, telemarketing calls or a phone bill with unauthorized charges, there are protections.
If you have concerns related to a local or long distance telephone company, contact the Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) and our office.
Cellular telephone service issues usually fall outside of state regulation. However, you can file a complaint about cellular telephone service with the FCC and with our office. In addition, you can file with our office billing complaints against any telephone company.
Two major consumer complaints made against telephone companies are known as slamming and cramming.
Slamming is when a telephone company switches your local or long distance phone service from your current provider to themselves without your knowledge or consent.
Cramming is when a telephone company adds unauthorized charges to your bill. These charges can look arcane, so be careful if you see charges for products or services on your bill that you didn't order or fees you don't understand. Pay particular attention to regulatory fees billed by companies that are not your telephone company. Under Texas law you are not required to pay unauthorized charges.
Protect yourself by carefully reading your phone bill. The Office of Public Utility Counsel provides explanations of the taxes, charges and fees found in local, long distance and mobile telephone bills. In addition, you can find information about your telephone bill and about telephone service scams at the PUC.
If you find charges that look like cramming, contact your telephone company to have them removed and consider filing a complaint with our office and the PUC. If you get slammed, ask your original telephone company to switch your service back to them. Then file complaints with our office and the PUC against the company that slammed you.
To reduce unwanted telemarketing calls, enroll your residential and cellular telephone numbers with the state and federal do-not-call lists. Both lists are free but they are separate, so you should review the terms and policies of each. You can enroll with the Texas do-not-call list at www.texasnocall.com and the federal list at www.donotcall.gov. Please note that if you sign up for the Texas do-not-call list via the telephone or by mail, you will need to pay a nominal registration charge for each telephone number you include on the list.
Bear in mind that it will take several weeks from the time you enroll for your participation to take effect. Also remember that illegitimate companies and scam artists won't respect these lists. Therefore, once your enrollment goes into effect you should be extra careful of unsolicited telemarketing calls unless you know they come from a company with which you have a legitimate, established relationship.
You can file complaints about violations of the Texas no-call list with our office and the PUC. You can file complaints about violations of the federal do-not-call list with the Federal Trade Commission at www.donotcall.gov.
Under Texas law, unsolicited fax advertisements cannot be sent between 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. They must also include a toll-free number for you to call to remove your fax number from their list. A business may not send you another fax once they send you written confirmation that they removed your number. Violation of this law is a Class C misdemeanor.
If you request removal from an advertiser but continue to receive faxes from them, you can file a consumer complaint with our office. Also contact your local district or county attorney about enforcement.
Finally, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations ban the transmission of unsolicited fax advertisements. Report possible violations to them as well.