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Communications

The most effective and easiest way to prevent telemarketing calls is to register your home and cellular phone number(s) with the National Do Not Call Registry operated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You may put your residential telephone number(s) including cellular numbers on the opt-out list. According to the FTC, registration with the Do Not Call list will reduce the number of telemarketing calls you receive by 80%. You can sign up for the Do Not Call Registry two ways:

The FTC's toll-free phone number is (888) 382-1222 (TTY: (866) 290-4236).
Online registration is available at the FTC's web site, www.donotcall.gov.

If you live in a rural area, the FTC's toll-free number may not be able to verify the number from which you are calling to register. And if you live in a senior housing complex or a dormitory with a private branch exchange (PBX) system, your phone number may not be properly matched when you attempt to sign up using the FTC's toll free number. In these situations, you will have to register through the Do Not Call website instead. Telemarketers must remove the phone numbers of those who have signed up for the Registry. They have thirty days to scrub their calling lists of those numbers. If you register for the National Do Not Call Registry, you should notice a significant reduction in telemarketing calls. Telemarketers must update their lists with new registrants every month. So if you sign up today, you will notice a reduction in calls in about three months from now. Your phone number will stay on the Registry for five years - unless you ask for your number to be removed from the list, or until you change your phone number. If your number is disconnected and then reconnected, perhaps due to a payment lapse, you will need to re-register. If you are able to keep your same phone number when you move to a new location, we advise you to re-register to make sure your number is not de-listed. If your phone number is changed when you move, don't forget to register anew.

If you signed up for the Registry through the FTC, you can verify if your phone number is on the list by going to https://www.donotcall.gov/confirm/Conf.aspx. You will be able to renew your registration every five years.

The laws that were recently updated to create the Do Not Call Registry (see Federal Laws below) restrict telemarketing calls to the hours between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. States may have more restrictive time constraints for telemarketers who contact residents.

When it was originally established, the FTC's Registry only covered those industries under the jurisdiction of that agency, leaving out such industries as telecommunications companies, financial institutions, insurance companies, and "junk" faxers. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has since joined the FTC's Registry to close the loophole. Intra-state telemarketers must also comply with the National Do Not Call Registry. To learn more about the FCC's ruling regarding the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), see Federal Laws below. Web: www.fcc.gov/cgb/donotcall

Local phone companies must notify customers once a year about the National Registry, including the toll-free number and website address.

Exemptions from the National Do Not Call Registry

Not all solicitation calls are covered by the Do Not Call Registry. It depends on the type of call being made. You can still be contacted by:

  • Charities
  • Survey researchers
  • Political campaigns
  • Companies with which you have a business relationship
  • Companies to which you have given written consent to remain on their calling list.

Companies with which you have an "existing business relationship" as well as their affiliates can call you within an 18-month window. And when you inquire about or apply for a service or product, that company can contact you within three months.

Charities, surveys, religious groups, and politicians. Charities, religious groups, and politicians are not covered by the Do Not Call Registry and do not have to maintain an organization-specific Do Not Call list. In addition,because survey researchers and companies making customer service calls are not requesting a contribution or selling a product or service, they are not covered by federal telemarketing laws. We advise, however, that if you are contacted by an entity that is exempt from the National Registry and does not have to maintain a company-specific do not call list, that you ask them to put you on their do not call list anyway. Many maintain do not call lists as a courtesy.

If a nonprofit group uses a for-profit marketer to call you, they are still exempt from having to comply with the Do Not Call Registry. But they must maintain a company-specific Do Not Call list that you can request your phone number be added to.

Written consent to be contacted. Are there some telemarketers you are willing to call you? If you have subscribed to the Do Not Call Registry, you can notify specific sellers in writing with your signature and your phone number that you would like to continue receiving sales calls. This will give the specific telemarketer permission to contact you until you tell them otherwise.

Consumer tip: Be aware that marketers may attempt to get written consent without your knowledge by sending solicitations or emails that release them from their obligations to not call you. Read all documents and emails before signing and sending them back to a marketer to make sure you are not inadvertently giving the company permission to telemarket you. If you receive a marketing call because you inadvertently gave written consent, ask to be placed on that company's Do Not Call list. Company-specific do not call lists are explained below.

Existing business relationships. If you have purchased a product or service or have an account with a company, that company has an "existing business relationship" (EBR) with you. You can be solicited by phone for 18 months after completing a transaction with a company or after you cancel your account even if you have previously signed up for the Do Not Call Registry. The 18-month time frame does not affect your ongoing relationships with companies. For instance, your bank or utility company can telemarket you throughout your relationship with them until you have told them to put you on their internal do not call list. You will not trigger the 18-month provision until your transaction is complete, until you cancel your account, or until you ask to be placed on the company-specific do not call list (explained below).

Affiliates. An existing business relationship also applies to certain affiliates of a company. According to the Telephone Sales Rules, the definition of an established business relationship encompasses those affiliates of a company "that the consumer would reasonably expect to be included given the nature and type of goods or services offered and the identity of the affiliate." This means that affiliates of companies with which you have an existing business relationship, such as your phone company or bank, may be able to claim the same relationship and call you with solicitations even if you have signed up for the Do Not Call Registry. (See Federal Laws below.)In general, if you have an ongoing account or an existing business relationship with a company, you may be telemarketed by its affiliates. You should only be contacted by an affiliate of a company if the name of the affiliate is similar and if it provides a similar service. (For more information about affiliate sharing of financial information, see Fact Sheet 24 at the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse). If you are contacted by an affiliate, they too must comply with your request to be placed on their company's do not call list.

Inquiry or application for a product or service. According to the Telephone Sales Rules, inquiring about or applying for a service or product entitles a telemarketer to contact you for up to three months -- even if you are already listed on the Do Not Call Registry. If you call a toll-free number about a product or inquire or apply for a service on a website, your phone number is likely to be requested or captured. In such instances, you can be contacted by that company for up to three months. According to the FTC, signing up for a contest or sweepstakes is not considered an inquiry or an application and should not result in telemarketing calls from those companies unless the application indicates that by signing you have given express consent. If you receive a sales call from a company that has your phone number because you inquired or applied for a product or service, you can ask the company to put you on its internal do not call list.

Company-Specific Do Not Call Lists

In essence, there are two Do Not Call lists - the National Registry and a company's internal do not call list. Most telemarketers, even those that are exempt from the Do Not Call Registry, are still required to maintain their own company-specific do not call list. If a company that is exempted from the National Registry contacts you, you can request to be placed on the company's in-house do not call list. You can take advantage of this in-house strategy even if you do not subscribe to the National Registry.

If you ask a company with which you have an existing business relationship to put you on their company-specific do not call list, that company can no longer call, even if you continue doing business with them. If you request to be placed on the do not call list of a company with which you have an existing business relationship, your request will not apply to their affiliates. If an affiliate calls, you will have to request to be placed on that company's do not call list as well.

Federal and state laws allow you to take legal action against telemarketers who do not add your number to their internal do not call list and who call you back within twelve months of requesting to be placed on that list. (See Federal Laws below, 47 CFR 64.1200; 16 CFR 310)

If Your State Maintains Its Own Do Not Call List

Many states have Do Not Call laws that apply to residents of those states. According to the FCC, these laws will still apply when the state's rules are stricter than the national rules. The federal rules constitute a floor. They override all less-restrictive state Do Not Call rules. If your state maintains its own Do Not Call list, check with the appropriate state agency to learn if you should register for both the state list and the National Registry. Most states that have their own lists are merging with the FTC's National Registry. The FTC will not require states to discontinue their own Do Not Call lists once the National Registry goes into effect. If you have previously subscribed to your state's Do Not Call list, you may also need to sign up for the National Registry depending on the state law. To learn if you need to subscribe to both the state and federal Do Not Call lists, visit these web sites. If these sources are not clear, you will need to contact your state Attorney General's consumer enforcement office.

    Federal Trade Commission, 10 year Anniversary
    http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2013/06/donotcall.shtm
    Direct Marketing Association's list of states with Do Not Call services,
    www.the-dma.org/government/donotcalllists.shtml
    AARP's Stopping Unwanted Phone Calls
    http://www.aarp.org/money/budgeting-saving/info-07-2012/when-do-not-call-means-they-still-can.html

To learn additional information about your state's law, including whether your state has enacted stricter laws regarding telemarketing calls, contact the consumer protection office in your state, such as the Attorney General's consumer law division. A list of these agencies is found in The Consumer Action Handbook of the Federal Consumer Information Center, www.consumeraction.gov/state.shtml.

Many of the recent changes in telemarketing laws are not yet clear-cut. For example, what may seem like a violation of state or federal law may not be. And there may be conflicts between federal and state laws. California law offers a good example of how a state statute differs from the national law.

California Business and Professions Code 17511 requires that certain telemarketers, such as investment firms, insurance, and financial services companies, register with the state. To obtain information on whether a specific telemarketing company is registered in California, write or call:
        California Office of the Attorney General
        Consumer Law Section
        Telephonic Sellers Program
        110 W. A St., Suite 1100
        San Diego, CA 92101.
        Telephone: (619) 645-3035.

California defines an affiliate as an entity that shares the same "name brand." Existing California law allows California businesses with fewer than 6 employees to telemarket consumers within 50 miles of the business' physical location. This law may no longer be valid given the more stringent federal benchmark.

California law mandates that state residents who inquire or apply for a product or service sold by a California business can only be contacted for 30 days after the initial contact according to California Business and Professions Code 17592. This may take precedent over the federal 90-day guidelines since it is more restrictive.

Conflicts between state and federal laws will likely be ironed out in time. According to government regulators and enforcement agencies we have contacted, these matters will have to be decided on a case-by-case basis until clear precedents are established.

Oouuccchhhh!  Just got your monthly cable bill and it hurt, huh?   Well, it should.   With the average family paying upwards of $70 per month for cable alone and throw on another $40-50 per month for broadband Internet, the bucks are really adding up.   In many cases, families pay more for cable/Internet than they do for electricity or water each month.  

To make matters worse, in the midst of the current recession-depression economy,  many cable companies have had the gall to raise their rates.  Of course, they do it in sneaky ways, like moving channels from a lower-cost tier to a higher one, as Time Warner & AT&T recently announced in San Diego.   Of course, the cable companies have long proven their sense of unfairness, so this shouldn't be as surprising as it is despising.

Fortunately, cable customers are not powerless to fight back.   Here are some proven and probably surprising tips about how to get your monthly cable bill lower.

Ask Them.    Cable companies are losing customers during this economic downturn and they will take some steps to keep customers on board.   Our suggestion is to check out some competing cable company websites to price out current rates, or compare packages and availability in your area. Look for signup specials as well as rates for plans that are similar to yours.   In San Diego, you can visit AT&T Uverse or some of the satellite companies like Direct TV or Dish Network.   Look for some packages that might be of interest to you.  BEWARE of third party vendors selling Direct TV/Dish Network at County Fairs or local big box stores, the prices can change when the company comes to your house to install the product.  Make sure you read everything you sign on the day of installation.

Call your local cable company.   Select the "cancel service" option in order to get to the reps who are trained to "save" the account.   They know the "best and lowest" deals that the company will offer.   Hit them with the news that you must do something to lower your cable bill.  Then hit them with the fact that you've checked out your options with their competitors and are seriously thinking about switching or just downgrading your current service.  Then just ask whether the company can match some of the lower prices, or inquire about any special offers -- perhaps for new customers -- that can be extended to you. If not, just ask about ultra-cheap rate plans.

You'd be surprised at how quickly they'll offer you some options that will lower your bill.  If you like the offer, then be sure to jot down any offer you're given and its expiration date, and then make sure you monitor your bill for price increases. When your promotional rate expires (or if your bill goes up for other reasons), call again, repeat your spiel, and ask the company to help you find places to save.

It works.   Consumers have reported getting deals like 50% off their monthly bill for six months, a 25% rate cut on a cable and Internet package, and $15- to $57-a-month discounts, as well as a new receiver thrown in for good measure.   There are bargains out there.  You just have to ask.   If you are nervous about this and need a step-by-step instruction about how to use this "cancellation call" strategy, click here

Go Basic.   All cable companies must offer a "basic" package of channels (usually 20-25) which include local broadcast stations.   This package is regulated by the federal government.   Companies won't advertise them, but they must offer them if asked.    Monthly prices range from $8-15 per month.   So if you just need local TV and a few other ones thrown in,  try the little-known but very affordable basic packages.

Scrutinze your Internet Speed. Many cable and Internet providers have different pricing tiers for different speeds of service. The slower speed, which typically runs $7 to $10 a month cheaper, is just fine for most people, unless you're a rabid gamer or you like to regularly download the entire Internet.

Bundling.   If you have cable, internet AND phone service, you may save some money by "bundling": Cable and AT&T want your business so badly that they're willing to eat the cost of some services entirely to get you to sign up for a package that includes cable TV, Internet, and phone service. The savings on most bundled plans come to roughly10-20%.  But be careful: the "gotchas" on these deals can hurt -- such as a requirement to sign up for premium services you don't need, or a charge if you cancel the contract early -- so read the fine print.

Consider Emerging Options.    Ever hear of Hulu?  Netflix?  Fancast?  YouTube?   How about phone services such as Google Talk, Yahoo Talk, Jajah or Skype?    All of these (and more) offer Internet based options for entertainment.  You can even hook up your computer to your humongous flat-screen LCD TV and watch these programs at 50"!    We've been using Netflix Video Streaming for the better part of one year now and have found it to offer high quality and reliable video that can be delivered to your large-screen TVs.    Similarly, Amazon just began offering streaming video.   It, too, offers high quality signals but suffers from a much more modest library of videos than does Netflix.   However, Amazon's promotion of offering free streaming video for its Prime customers makes the offerings quite an attractive deal at the moment. 

Go Cold Turkey.    Many families report a decidedly improved quality of life, actually.  Buy a Wii console and play video games with your family.  Use your big-screen to improve your bowling and tennis rather than softening your buttocks!    And so long as you have some kind of high-speed Internet access,  you can enjoy downloadable movies from providers like Blockbuster and Netflix.  You can buy DVDs of entire TV series for less than one-month's cable fees.   And you can watch broadcast shows after they first appear using Hulu.com and other web sites.   

We are here to tell you that there's life after cable.  So if you can't get a good deal from the cable companies then consider cuting the cord for awhile and see whether life is bearable.   You might be surprised.

Early Termination Fees or ETFs remain consumers biggest complaints. ETFs only apply if you are under a contract with the company. Here is a list of the current wireless phone ETF fees.

 

  Advanced Devices  Standard Devices
AT&T Mobility $325 per line minus $10 per month for each month of service $150 per line minus $4 per month for month of service 
Sprint Nextel $350 per line for first 6 months then minus $20 per month for each month of service but at no time less than $100 $200 per line for first 4 months then minus $10 per month for each month of service but at no time less than $50
T-Mobile USA $200 per line $200 per line
Verizon Wireless $350 per line minus $10 per month for each month of service $175 per line minus $5 per month for each month of service


Click on a company's name to see the details of their ETF policy. If you purchase your wireless device from a kiosk or other authorized dealer there may be an additional cancellation fee. Remember you can avoid ETFs altogether by paying full price for a wireless device and not entering into a contract. And in California each of the carriers provides a 30 day trial period when you sign up for new service that you can cancel without incurring an ETF, though you may incur some charges related to returning the phone.

Each carrier takes a different stance on what is materially adverse, who can get out (Cingular for instance has eliminated language in some contracts that claims that text messages for instance are an "optional service"). You usually (except for Verizon which does offer 60 day period to call and claim materially adverse) only have a short time to claim a change as materially adverse, sometimes less than 14 days.

VERIZON

Our Rights To Make Changes
Your service is subject to our business policies, practices, and procedures, which we can change without notice. UNLESS OTHERWISE PROHIBITED BY LAW, WE CAN ALSO CHANGE PRICES AND ANY OTHER CONDITIONS IN THIS AGREEMENT AT ANY TIME BY SENDING  OU WRITTEN NOTICE PRIOR TO THE BILLING PERIOD IN WHICH THE CHANGES WOULD GO INTO EFFECT. IF YOU CHOOSE TO USE YOUR SERVICE AFTER THAT POINT, YOU'RE ACCEPTING THE CHANGES. IF THE CHANGES HAVE A MATERIAL ADVERSE EFFECT ON YOU,  HOWEVER, YOU CAN END THE AFFECTED SERVICE, WITHOUT ANY EARLY TERMINATION FEE, JUST BY CALLING US WITHIN 60 DAYS AFTER WE SEND NOTICE OF THE CHANGE.


SPRINT/NEXTEL

When You Don't Have To Pay An Early Termination Fee
You aren't responsible for paying an Early Termination Fee when terminating Services: (a) provided on a month-to-month basis; (b) consistent with our published trial period return policy; or (c) in response to a materially adverse change we make to the Agreement as described directly below.


Our Right To Change The Agreement & Your Related Rights
We may change any part of the Agreement at any time including, but not limited to, rates, charges, how we calculate charges, or your terms of Service. We will provide you notice of changes that may impact you in a manner consistent with this Agreement (see "Providing Notice Under This Agreement" paragraph). Except as provided below, if a change we make to the Agreement is material and has a material adverse affect on you, you may terminate each line of Service materially affected without incurring an Early Termination Fee only if you: (a) call us within 30 days after the effective date of the change; and (b) specifically advise us that you wish to cancel Services because of a material change to the Agreement that we have made. If you do not cancel Service within 30 days of the change, an Early Termination Fee will apply if you terminate Services before the end of any applicable Term Commitment.
The following, without limitation, will generally not be considered changes to the Agreement as contemplated in this provision and will not result in the waiver of applicable Early Termination Fees: (a) changes to our Policies; (b) changes to rates or charges that are not a core part of the rate plan package for which you contracted - for example, incidental, occasional or casual use charges and other options that do not require a Term Commitment; (b) changes to Taxes & Government Fees; or (c) changes to Surcharges, including assessing new Surcharges.

Our Right To Suspend Or Terminate Services
We can, without notice, suspend or terminate any Service at any time for any reason, including, but not limited to: (a) late payment; (b) exceeding an Account Spending Limit ("ASL"); (c) harassing/threatening our employees or agents; (d) providing false information; (e) interfering with our operations; (f) using/suspicion of using Services in any manner restricted by or inconsistent with the Agreement; (g) breaching the Agreement, including our Policies; (h) providing false, inaccurate, dated or unverifiable identification or credit information, or becoming insolvent or bankrupt; (i) modifying a Device from its manufacturer specifications; or (j) if we believe the action protects our interests, any customer's interests or our network.

T-MOBILE

Changes to the Agreement or Charges. EXCEPT TO THE EXTENT PROHIBITED BY LAW, IF WE: (A) INCREASE THE CHARGES INCLUDED IN YOUR MONTHLY RECURRING ACCESS RATE PLAN, OR (B) MODIFY A MATERIAL TERM OF OUR AGREEMENT WITH YOU AND THE MODIFICATION WOULD BE MATERIALLY ADVERSE TO YOU, WE WILL NOTIFY YOU OF THE INCREASE OR MODIFICATION AND YOU CAN CANCEL THAT SERVICE WITHOUT PAYING A CANCELLATION FEE (WHICH IS YOUR ONLY REMEDY) BY FOLLOWING THE CANCELLATION INSTRUCTIONS IN THE NOTICE. IF YOU DO NOT CANCEL YOUR SERVICE BY FOLLOWING THOSE INSTRUCTIONS, OR YOU OTHERWISE ACCEPT THE CHANGE, THEN YOU AGREE TO THE INCREASE OR MODIFICATION, EVEN IF YOU PAID FOR SERVICE IN ADVANCE. IF THE NOTICE DOES NOT SAY HOW LONG YOU HAVE TO CANCEL, THEN IT IS WITHIN 14 DAYS AFTER THE DATE OF THE NOTICE, UNLESS A LONGER PERIOD IS REQUIRED BY LAW. EXCEPT TO THE EXTENT PROHIBITED BY LAW, CHARGES FOR PRODUCTS, SERVICES, OPTIONAL SERVICES, OR ANY OTHER CHARGES THAT ARE NOT INCLUDED IN YOUR MONTHLY RECURRING ACCESS RATE PLAN (SUCH AS DIRECTORY ASSISTANCE, ROAMING, DOWNLOADS, AND THIRD-PARTY CONTENT) ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE, AND IF YOU CONTINUE TO USE THOSE SERVICES, OR YOU OTHERWISE AGREE TO THE CHANGES, THEN YOU AGREE TO THE NEW CHARGES. VISIT OUR WEB SITE, RETAIL LOCATIONS, OR CALL CUSTOMER CARE FOR CURRENT CHARGES.


CTIA CONSUMER CODE

Provide Customers the Right to Terminate Service for Changes to Contract Terms
Carriers will not modify the material terms of their subscribers' contracts in a manner that is materially adverse to subscribers without providing a reasonable advance notice of a proposed modification and allowing subscribers a time period of not less than 14 days to cancel their contracts with no early termination fee.

http://consumerist.com/2007/05/09/materially-adverse-clauses-for-all-major-cellphones-so-you-can-escape-contract-without-termination/

 

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UCAN has represented the interests of San Diego County utility customers since 1983. UCAN focuses its efforts on the rates and services of San Diego Gas and Electric Company, telecommunications utilities and the City of San Diego Water Department.

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