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H.R. 6191 (102nd): Telephone Disclosure and Dispute Resolution Act

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The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress.

10/6/1992--Introduced. Telephone Disclosure and Dispute Resolution Act - Title I: Carrier Obligations and Consumer Rights Concerning Pay-Per-Call Transactions - Amends the Communications Act of 1934 to require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish a system for the oversight and regulation of pay-per-call services. Requires the FCC's final rules to: (1) include measures that provide a consumer of pay-per-call services with adequate and clear descriptions of the rights of the caller; (2) define the obligations of common carriers with respect to the provision of such services; (3) include requirements on such carriers to protect against abusive practices by service providers; (4) identify procedures by which common carriers and providers may take affirmative steps to protect against nonpayment of legitimate charges; and (5) include requirements that such services be offered only through the use of certain telephone number prefixes and area codes. Directs common carriers that contract with a provider of pay-per-call services to make available on request: (1) a list of telephone numbers, a description, and a statement of fees for each service it carries; and (2) other information the FCC considers necessary. Requires common carriers contracting with providers to terminate services if the service is not in compliance with this Act. Prohibits common carriers from disconnecting or interrupting a subscriber's local or long distance service because of nonpayment for any pay-per-call service. Authorizes common carriers that provide local exchange service to offer subscribers the option of blocking access to pay-per-call service. Permits the cost of blocking to be recovered by contract or tariff but bars recovery of costs from local or long distance ratepayers. Directs common carriers to prohibit by tariff or contract the use of any toll-free number in a manner that would result in the calling party being: (1) assessed a charge for the call; (2) connected to a pay-per-call service; (3) charged for information conveyed during the call unless the party has a preexisting agreement to be charged for the information; or (4) called back collect for the provision of audio information services or simultaneous voice conservation services. Requires common carriers that contract with, and offer billing and collection services to, providers of pay-per-call services to: (1) ensure that a subscriber is not billed for services that are provided in violation of regulations issued pursuant to title II of this Act or under circumstances necessary to protect subscribers from abusive practices; (2) provide information on subscribers' and carriers' rights regarding pay-per-call services; and (3) include certain information in billing for pay-per-call services. Exempts a common carrier from civil or criminal liability under this Act solely because it provided transmission or billing and collection services for a pay-per-call service unless the carrier knew that such services violated this Act or other Federal law. Bars causes of action in courts or administrative agencies against common carriers on account of acts to terminate pay-per-call services to comply with this Act or other Federal law. Requires regulations to ensure that carriers and other parties providing billing and collection services with respect to pay-per-call services provide refunds to subscribers who have been billed for services violating this Act or other Federal law. Permits recovery of costs from providers, but bars recovery from local or long distance ratepayers. Directs the FCC to submit recommendations to the Congress with respect to the extension of such regulations to persons that provide, for a per-call charge, data services that are not pay-per-call services. Specifies that nothing in this Act shall affect provisions of the Communications Act of 1934 concerning obscene or harassing phone calls. Title II: Regulations of Unfair and Deceptive Acts and Practices in Connection with Pay-Per-Call Services - Directs the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to prescribe rules to prohibit unfair and deceptive acts and practices in any advertisement for pay-per-call services. Provides that such rules shall require persons offering such services to: (1) disclose in any advertising the cost of the use of the telephone number; (2) disclose the odds of receiving a prize in the case of an advertisement which offers a prize; (3) disclose that a service is unauthorized by a Federal agency in the case of an advertisement that promotes a service that is not operated by a Federal agency but provides information on a Federal program; (4) not direct an advertisement at children under the age of 12; (5) state that an individual must have the consent of a parent or legal guardian in the case of an advertisement directed primarily to individuals under 18; (6) not use advertisements that emit electronic tones which automatically dial a pay-per-call number; (7) ensure that whenever the number is shown in television and print media advertisements that the charges for the call are clearly displayed; (8) specify the total cost in delivering any telephone message soliciting calls to a pay-per-call service; and (9) not advertise any toll-free number from which callers are connected to an access number for a pay-per-call service. Directs the FTC to prescribe rules requiring each provider of pay-per-call services to: (1) include a specified introductory disclosure message in each pay-per-call message; (2) enable the caller to hang up at or before the end of the introductory message without incurring any charge; (3) not direct such services at children under 12 unless the service is an educational service; (4) stop the assessment of time-based charges immediately upon disconnection by the caller; (5) disable any bypass mechanism which allows frequent callers to avoid listening to the disclosure message after the institution of any price increase; (6) be prohibited from providing services through a toll-free number; (7) be prohibited from billing consumers in excess of the amounts described in the introductory message; (8) meet specified requirements for billing statements; (9) be liable for refunds to consumers for services provided in violation of Federal law; and (10) comply with additional standards to prevent abusive practices. Directs the FTC to require a common carrier that provides telephone service to a pay-per-call service provider to make available to the FTC any records and financial information relating to the arrangements (other than for the provision of local exchange service) between the carrier and the provider. Authorizes States to bring civil actions to enjoin practices violating FTC rules and obtain damages or other relief on behalf of their residents whenever there is reason to believe that State residents are adversely affected by such practices. Bars States from instituting such actions during the pendency of a civil action by the FTC. Provides for principal enforcement of this title by the FTC under the Federal Trade Commission Act. Title III: Billing and Collection - Directs the FTC to promulgate rules to establish procedures for the correction of billing errors with respect to telephone-billed purchases and that impose requirements similar to requirements imposed with respect to the resolution of credit disputes under the Truth in Lending and Fair Credit Billing Acts. Sets forth provisions with respect to: (1) resolving inconsistencies between State laws concerning telephone billing practices and this title; (2) regulatory exemptions from this title which may be granted by the FTC for transactions in a State offering substantially similar or greater protection to the consumer; and (3) enforcement of this title. Title IV: Miscellaneous Provisions - Directs the Assistant Secretary of Energy for Conservation and Renewable Energy to submit to the Congress a proposal for demonstrating the ability of innovative communications equipment and services to further the national goals of conserving energy and protecting health and safety. Requires the Secretary of Energy to consider requesting the authority to use radio frequencies from the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information to carry out demonstration projects designed to demonstrate the energy conservation potential of communications technologies. Amends the Communications Act of 1934 to exempt from restrictions on the use of automated telephone equipment calls to a telephone number assigned to a cellular telephone service that are not charged to the called party subject to conditions in the interest of privacy rights. Directs the FCC to prescribe regulations denying equipment authorization under any part of the FCC's regulations for any scanning receiver that is capable of: (1) receiving transmissions in the frequencies allocated to the domestic cellular radio telecommunications service; (2) readily being altered by the user to receive transmissions in such frequencies; or (3) being equipped with decoders that convert digital cellular transmissions to analog voice audit. Bans the manufacture or importation of any scanning receiver having such capabilities. Directs the FCC to report to the Congress on available security features for analog and digital radio signals.