|BILLING CODE 6750-01-P
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION
AGENCY: Federal Trade Commission.
ACTION: Announcement of Joint Public Forum on the Advertising and Marketing of Dial-Around and Other Long-Distance Telecommunications Services.
SUMMARY: The Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission plan to hold a public forum on November 4, 1999, to discuss the advertising and marketing of dial-around and other long-distance telecommunications services. This Federal Register Notice outlines the topics to be addressed at the forum and the procedures to be followed by those who wish to participate in the forum.
DATES: The public forum will be held on November 4, 1999, in Washington, D.C., from 8:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Notification of interest in participating in the forum must be submitted on or before October 20, 1999.
ADDRESSES: Notification of interest in participating in the public forum should be submitted in writing to Lynn Vermillera, Enforcement Division, Common Carrier Bureau, Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20554. The public forum will be held at the Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th Street, SW, Commission Meeting Room, Washington, DC 20554.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lynn Vermillera, firstname.lastname@example.org, (202) 418-7120, Enforcement Division, Common Carrier Bureau, Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20554; or Marianne Schwanke, email@example.com, (202) 326-3165, Division of Marketing Practices, Bureau of Consumer Protection, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580.
Section A. Background
As a result of the Telecommunications Act of 1996(1) and the subsequent increase in competition in the long-distance telecommunications market, many companies are offering consumers a variety of choices in long-distance calling. Numerous long-distance carriers, both large and small, heavily promote, through national television, print, and direct mail advertising campaigns, the use of their own long-distance telecommunications services, including dial-around services. These advertisements urge consumers to dial a long-distance provider's access code (or "10-10" number) before dialing a long-distance number to bypass or "dial around" the consumer's chosen long-distance carrier and to get a better rate. Other advertisements promote "calling plans" that offer a fixed per-minute rate during certain hours or on particular days. The increased competition for long-distance call volume through dial-around and other services has given consumers greater choice in deciding which carrier to use and a greater diversity in the prices charged for those calls. With accurate information, consumers will benefit from being able to choose the particular carrier that meets their long-distance calling needs at the most economical price. Conversely, if consumers are deceived by the advertising claims, they cannot make informed purchasing decisions and ultimately the growth of competition in the long-distance market will be inhibited. Since consumers of dial-around services must rely on the information contained in the advertisements as the basis for determining whether to choose a particular dial-around service, it is even more critical that such advertising claims be truthful and not misleading.
Because of the proliferation of advertisements for these new services, as well as the increased number of complaints by consumers regarding how dial-around and other long-distance services are marketed, the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") and Federal Communications Commission ("FCC") have concluded that a public forum would be appropriate to afford staff and interested parties an opportunity to explore the issues raised by the advertising and marketing of dial-around and other telecommunications services. Based on the information provided at the forum, the agencies will determine whether future action is necessary regarding the advertising and marketing of long-distance telephone services.
Section B. Public Forum
The FCC and FTC staff will conduct a public forum to discuss issues raised by the advertising and marketing of dial-around and other long-distance services. The purpose of the forum is to facilitate a discussion among members of industry, consumer groups, and law enforcement about issues raised by claims made in many dial-around and other long-distance telephone service advertisements, and possible solutions to these concerns, including additional guidance to the industry. The forum will be divided into two sessions. The morning session will begin with an overview of applicable advertising law, which prohibits deceptive representations. This overview will be followed by a discussion among representatives from industry, consumer organizations, and law enforcement, as well as marketing and advertising experts, regarding various issues, including consumers' need for cost information, the use of comparative claims, and the effectiveness of disclosures. The afternoon session will provide participants with the opportunity to analyze claims made in various mock advertisements illustrative of the issues raised by current advertisements for dial-around and other long-distance telephone services. Following this discussion, participants will have the opportunity to present possible solutions to the concerns raised by current advertising in this area. There also will be time for public comment following the afternoon session.
Section C. Request to Participate
The FCC and FTC invite members of the public, industry, and other interested parties to participate in the forum. To be eligible to participate, you must file a request to participate by October 20, 1999. If the number of parties who request to participate in the forum is so large that including all requestors would inhibit effective discussion among participants, staff of the FTC and FCC will select as participants a limited number of parties to represent the relevant interests. Selection will be based on the following criteria:
If it is necessary to limit the number of participants, those who requested to participate but were not selected will be afforded an opportunity, if at all possible, to present statements during a limited time period at the end of the session. The time allotted for these statements will be based on the amount of time necessary for discussion of the issues by the selected parties, and on the number of persons who wish to make statements. Requestors will be notified as soon as possible after October 20, 1999, if they have been selected to participate.
By direction of the Commission.
Donald S. Clark
1. 47 U.S.C. 228 and 15 U.S.C. 5714(1).