Attorney General Hardy Myers today announced that two long distance providers that made unauthorized service changes and added false charges to telephone bills will eliminate the fraudulent business practices in Oregon. Named in Assurances of Voluntary Compliance filed today in Marion County Circuit Court are Excel Communications, Inc. of Dallas, Texas and Tradex International, Inc. of Seattle, Washington.
"We continue to pursue companies that ignore laws prohibiting slamming and cramming," Myers said. "Complaints about slamming have decreased in recent years, but cramming remains Oregon's most common consumer complaint." Slamming is the practice of changing a customer's long-distance service without his or her authorization and cramming is the practice of placing unauthorized service charges on phone bills.
The Department of Justice's Financial Fraud/Consumer Protection section received 30 complaints against Excel, ranging from slamming to problems with terminating service and being billed after services were cancelled. In one case, a customer discovered that the company used a forged letter of authorization to change her long distance service. Excel also allegedly failed to verify a number of letters of authorization resulting in improper changes to service.
Tradex International does business in Oregon as Western Telecom and is a successor to certain accounts of TouchTone Communications. TouchTone slammed Oregon consumers and sold the accounts to Western Telecom, which led to unauthorized charges on individual phone bills.
Under the terms of the assurances, which do not admit law violations, both companies agree not to violate the Unlawful Trade Practices Act and to provide restitution to consumers for any unauthorized charges. In addition, Tradex will establish a toll-free number and assign a representative to respond to consumer billing questions.
Excel paid $75,000 and Tradex paid $7,500 to the Department's consumer protection and education fund.
Consumers who need additional information about slamming and cramming should call the Attorney General's toll-free, consumer hotline at 1-877-877-9392 statewide, 378-4320 from Salem and 229-5576 from Portland. Brochures on slamming and cramming also are available by writing to Financial Fraud/Consumer Protection at 1162 Court Street, N.E., Salem, OR 97310.
Peter Cogswell, (503) 378-6002.