Customers or applicants may file requests or complaints with the telephone company at its business office either by letter, in person, or by telephone. The telephone company shall make a prompt response after suitable investigation or development of information requests. You may request the results of the review in writing. If you are dissatisfied with the telephone company’s review, you may contact the commission (PUC) to initiate an informal or formal complaint. PUC contact information: Public Utility Commission of Texas Office of Customer Protection P. O. Box 13326 Austin, Texas 78711-3326 (512) 936-7120 or in Texas (toll free) 1-888-782-8477 Fax (512) 936-7003 e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org Internet address: www.puc.state.tx.us TTY (512) 936-7136 and Relay Texas (toll free) 1-800-735-2989
Copies of our rules and regulations and schedules of rates are available at our business office for public information. Our business office is located at 808 N. Fifth Street, Alpine, Texas 79830. Our business office telephone number is (800) 592-4781
Each residential and business customer applying for service with the telephone company must satisfactorily establish credit. Credit history shall be applied equally for a reasonable period of time to a spouse or former spouse who shared the service credit history. Credit history maintained by one must be applied equally to the other without modification and without additional qualifications not required of the other.
Credit may be established in several ways:
Demonstrate that you have been a residential customer of a telephone company within the last two years, that you are not delinquent in payment of your account with them and that during the last twelve consecutive months of service, you did not have more than one occasion in which your telephone bill was paid after becoming delinquent, and never had service disconnected for nonpayment (you are encouraged to obtain a letter of credit history from your previous telephone company before moving).
Demonstrate a satisfactory credit rating by appropriate means, including but not limited to, a letter of credit reference from a utility company.
Pay a deposit.
Furnish in writing a satisfactory guarantee to secure payment of bills for your telephone service.
Demonstrate that you are 65 years of age or older and that you do not have any outstanding account balances with any telephone company for residential service which accrued within the last two years. If credit can not be satisfactorily established, the payment of a deposit not exceeding an amount equivalent to one-sixth of your estimated annual billing, or a letter of guarantee will be required. To maintain satisfactory credit a customer must make prompt payment on all telephone bills.
Pursuant to the rules of the Texas Public Utilities Commission, the telephone company is allowed to obtain a deposit under the following circumstances:
If the applicant has been delinquent within the last two years in payment of their account on more than one occasion, or if service has been disconnected for nonpayment; or
If the applicant is unable to furnish in writing a satisfactory guarantee to secure payment of bills for the service required.During the first twelve months of service, the telephone company may require an additional deposit if the customer’s current usage is three times the estimated usage, or if current usage is three times the average usage of the most recent three bills. Additionally, the current usage must exceed $150 and 150% of the security held.
If the additional deposit or the current usage is not paid within ten days after proper notifications, the telephone company may disconnect service. The telephone company may require an additional deposit if:
The actual billings of a business customer are at least twice the amount of the estimated billings, if that customer has been issued a suspension notice in the previous twelve months.
The actual billings of a residential customer are at least twice the amount of estimated billings, two billing periods have passed, and a suspension notice has been issued within the previous twelve months. If the additional deposit is not paid within fifteen days after proper notifications, service may be disconnected. In lieu of the additional deposit, the customer may elect to pay the bill by the due date, provided this option has not been used in the previous twelve months. A deposit, with a Public Utilities Commission approved interest rate, is refunded after one year to a residential customer, and after two years to a business customer, if the customer is not delinquent in the payment of the current bill and has not been delinquent in the payment of a bill on more than two occasions. If telephone service is disconnected, the deposit with interest is applied to the final bill.
If you have reported that you have no dial tone and are unable to make or receive calls for eight (8) normal working hours or more and your service interruption is a result of network problems, you are entitled to a credit on your next bill for part of the local service charges. Call your service representative to arrange credit.
For errors or omissions in listings or advertisements in telephone directories, allowances are provided as follows: A. For listings in telephone directories furnished without additional charge, an amount not in excess of the minimum monthly charge to the customer for exchange service during the effective life of the directory in which the error or omission occurred. B. For listings in telephone directories furnished at additional charge, an amount not in excess of the charge for that listing during the effective life of the directory in which the error or omission occurred. C. For advertisements in classified directories, an amount based upon pro rata abatement of the charge in such degree as the error or omission affected the advertisement. For information on allowances available in the event of errors or omissions in information records or in TWX or other special directories you should contact your nearest service office.
To assist qualified low-income customers, obtain and maintain local telephone service, discount assistance programs are available from local exchange telephone companies. Under these assistance plans, qualified low-income applicants may receive a 50% discount off telephone service installation charges for new service installation. Customers that qualify are also eligible for a discount off their monthly local telephone bill.
Lifeline Service Program reduces monthly rates for basic local telephone service. Customers or members of their household who receive benefits through the Texas Department of Health and Human Services (TDHS) from the following programs qualify for Lifeline Assistance and may be automatically enrolled in the Lifeline Program: Food Stamps, Medicaid, and Supplemental Security Income, and State Child Health Plan. In addition, customers may also self-certify eligibility if they are recipients of: Federal Public Housing Assistance, Low Income Energy Assistance Program, or have a maximum income level of 150% of the federal poverty level. For eligible customers, the discount will apply only to basic telephone service. This discount does not prevent you from subscribing to optional telephone services such as Custom Calling Service (i.e. Call Waiting, Caller ID); however, the discount rate does not apply to these services or any other charges.
Big Bend Telephone Company, Inc. has filed with the Federal Government a Compliance Assurance in which it assures the Rural Utilities Service that it will comply fully with all requirements of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended; the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, as amended; and the rules and regulations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture which provide that no person in the United States on the basis of race, color, national origin, age or disability shall be excluded from participation in, admission or access to, denied the benefits of, or otherwise be subjected to discrimination under any of this organization’s programs or activities. Under this assurance, this organization is committed not to discriminate against any person on the ground of race, color, national origin, age or disability in its policies and practices relating to applicants for service or any other policies and practices relating to treatment of beneficiaries and participants including rates, condition and extension of service, use of any of its facilities, attendance at and participation in any meetings of beneficiaries and participants or the exercise of any rights of such beneficiaries and participants in the conduct of the operations of this organization. The person responsible for coordinating this organization’s nondiscrimination compliance effort is Justin Haynes, President. Any individual or specific class of individuals, who feels that this organization has subjected them to discrimination may obtain further information about the statutes and regulations listed above from and/or file a written complaint with this organization; or the Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC 20250; or the Administrator, Rural Utilities Service, Washington, DC 20250. Complaints must be filed within 180 days after the alleged discrimination or by such later date to which the Secretary of Agriculture or the Rural Utilities Service extends the time for filing. Identity of complaints will be kept confidential except to the extent necessary to carry out the Rules and Regulations.
The Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program (STAP) provides financial assistance to help Texas residents with disabilities, purchase basic specialized equipment or services needed to access the telephone network. For more information, contact the Texas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing at 512-407-3250 (Voice) or 512-407-3251 (TTY) or www.tcdhh.state.tx.us. This program is open to all individuals who are residents of Texas and have a disability.
Working with the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) and in compliance with the Commission’s Substantive Rules 26.122(f) and 26.128, Big Bend Telephone Company is providing this notice to advise you of your rights concerning your customer-specific Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI). In the normal course of providing your telephone service, Big Bend Telephone Company maintains certain information about your account. This information, when matched to your name, address and calling or originating billing telephone number, is known as your customer-specific “Customer Proprietary Network Information,” or CPNI for short. Examples include the type of line you have, technical characteristics, class of service, current telephone charges, long-distance and local service billing records, directory assistance charges, usage date, and calling patterns. Big Bend Telephone Company may use your CPNI to market our services to you. However, the PUC of Texas has adopted rules stating that Big Bend Telephone Company may not use your CPNI to market certain telephone services or features to you if you have requested that your CPNI be considered restricted for this purpose. If you wish to have your CPNI considered “restricted”, call our business office at 1-800-592-4781 to tell us of your preference to have restricted CPNI. There will be no charge for restricting your customer information and the restriction will remain in effect until you notify the business office otherwise. While this restriction is effective, Big Bend Telephone Company may still have some marketing contacts with you not based upon your CPNI. Please call for further information.
Texas law provides certain protections for a person who receives a telephone solicitation at a residence.
A telephone solicitor must:
Identify the business on whose behalf he or she is calling
Identify the purpose of the call
Identify the telephone number at which the person, Company, or organization making the call may be reached
A telephone solicitor may not call a residence before 9:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. on a weekday or Saturday or before noon or after 9:00 p.m. on Sunday. If a telephone solicitor uses an automatic dialing/ announcing device, the machine must disconnect from your line within 5 seconds after termination of the call. Exceptions: The requirements above do not apply to telephone solicitations made at your request, or solicitations made in connection with an existing debt or contract, or calls from a telephone solicitor with whom you have a prior or existing business relationship.
If you use a credit card to purchase consumer goods or a service from a telephone solicitor other than a public charity (an organization exempt from federal income tax under the Internal Revenue Code, 501(c)(3), the seller must:
offer a full refund for the return of under aged and unused goods within seven days after you receive the goods or service (the seller must process the refund within 30 days after you return the merchandise or cancel your order for undelivered goods or service); or
provide you with a written contract fully describing the goods or service being offered, the total price charged, the name, address, and business phone of the seller, and any terms and conditions affecting the sale
Complaints: The Attorney General of Texas investigates complaints relating to a violation of this law, which is found at the Business and Commerce Code Chapter 37. If you have a complaint about a telephone solicitor whom you believe has violated this law, contact: Consumer Protection Division, Office of the Attorney General of Texas, P. O. Box 12548, Austin, Texas 78711, hotline (512) 1-800-621-0508. Another law, found at Public Utility Regulatory Act §55.151 and §55.152, requires a telephone solicitor to make every effort not to call a consumer who asks not to be called again. Complaints relating to a violation of this law are investigated by the Public Utility Commission of Texas. If you have a complaint about repeated solicitation from a telephone solicitor you have asked not to call you again, contact: Office of Customer Protection, Public Utility Commission of Texas, P. O. Box 13326, Austin, Texas 78711- 3326, (512) 936-7120 or 1-888-782-8477. Hearing and speech-impaired individuals with text telephones (TTY) may contact the commission at (512) 936-7136. Be advised that you may have additional rights under federal law. Please contact the Federal Trade Commission or the Federal Communications Commission for further information on these additional rights.
Telephone companies are prohibited by law from switching you from one telephone service provider to another without your permission, a practice commonly known as “slamming”. If you are slammed, Texas law requires the telephone company that slammed you to do the following:
1. Pay within FIVE BUSINESS DAYS of your request, all charges associated with returning you to your original telephone company.
2. Provide all billing records to your original telephone company within 10 BUSINESS DAYS of your request.
3. Pay, within 30 days, your original telephone company the amount you would have paid if you had not been slammed.
4. Refund to you, within 30 business days, any amount you paid for charges during the first 30 days after the slam and any amount more than what you would have paid your original telephone company for charges after the first 30 days following the slam.
Your original telephone company is required by law to provide you with all the benefits, such as frequent flyer miles, you would have normally received for your telephone use during the period in which you were slammed. If you have been slammed, you can change your service immediately back to your original provider by CALLING THE ALLEGED UNAUTHORIZED TELECOMMUNICATIONS PROVIDER. You should also report the slam by writing or calling the Public Utility Commission of Texas, P. O. Box 13326, Austin, Texas 78711- 3326, (512) 936-7120 or in Texas (toll-free) 1 (888) 782-8477, fax: (512) 936-7003, e-mail address: email@example.com. Hearing and speech-impaired individuals with text telephones (TTY) may contact the commission at 1 (512) 936-7136. You can prevent slamming by requesting a preferred telephone company freeze from Big Bend Telephone. With a freeze in place, you must give consent to “lift” the freeze before your phone service can be changed. A freeze may apply to local toll service, long distance service, or both. The Public Utility Commission of Texas can give you more information about freezes and your rights as a customer. For more information you may contact the business office at 1 (800) 592-4781. Due to the recent rule changes regarding Slamming or changing your long distance carrier selection fraudulently, Big Bend Telephone is marking all our accounts as ‘Customer Change Only’ and will no longer change your carrier when we receive notice from the various Long Distance Carriers. We will change your carrier only when you request it personally either over the phone or in writing. We believe this will let you remain in control of your long distance service and billing. If you have any questions about this change, please don’t hesitate to contact Big Bend Telephone Company, Inc., 808 N. 5th St., Alpine, Texas 79830, (432) 364-1000 or (800) 592-4781. File a complaint with the PUC here: http://www.puc.state.tx.us/ocp/complaints/filing.cfm
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced on October 27, 2000 that its Part 64, Subpart K slamming liability and investigation rules will finally go into effect on November 28, 2000. Under Section 64.1150, executing carriers (LECs) who receive notification from a subscriber of an unauthorized change must do the following:
Inform the subscriber of the 30-day absolution period.
Immediately notify the authorized carrier (i.e., the previous preferred carrier prior to the alleged slamming) and identify the unauthorized carrier to the authorized carrier.
Immediately notify the unauthorized carrier (i.e., the current preferred interexchange carrier-PIC in the switch) and identify the authorized carrier to the unauthorized carrier.
Refer the subscriber to either the state commission or, where the state commission has not opted to administer the slamming rules, the FCC Consumer Information Bureau.
Residential customers may add their name, address and non-business telephone number to a state-sponsored no-call list that is intended to limit the number of telemarketing calls received. The “No-Call Lists” will be published quarterly and telemarketers must update their “Do Not Call” lists from the published list each quarter (January 1, April 1, July 1, October 1). Telemarketers will have 60 days from the date a number appears on a published list to update their internal databases and remove numbers. The first published list became available to telemarketers on April 1, 2002. You will be advised when you register on which quarterly list your telephone number will appear. Register for the Texas “Do Not Call List” here: http://www.puc.state.tx.us/ocp/telephone/donotcall.cfm The cost for registering on the “No-Call List(s)” are as follows:
Statewide “No-Call List” There will be a charge of $2.25 to register each residential number to be included in the statewide “No-Call List” only. Your registered telephone number(s) will remain on the list for three years from the date your residential telephone number is first published on the list.
“Electric No-Call List” If you wish to register ONLY for the “Electric No-Call List,” you will pay a charge of $2.55 for each residential telephone number, and the number will remain only on the “Electric No-Call List” for five years.
You may also register for both lists. The cost is $4.80 per residential phone, and your number will remain on both lists for five years. Consumers may register for either or both lists in 3 ways: 1. Online at http://www.texasnocall.com for instant registration. Utilize this easy, automated method to speed your registration. The site is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. 2. Call toll-free 1-866-TXNOCAL(L) (1-866- 896-6225) to obtain an application or to register. 3. Send a written request for an application to: TEXAS NO-CALL P.O. Box 313 E. Walpole, MA 02032 The customer registration fee must be paid by credit card when registering online or by telephone. When registering by mail, the fee must be paid by credit card, check or money order. A customer that registers for inclusion on the nocall list may continue to receive calls from groups, organizations, and persons who are exempt from compliance with this section, including a listing of entities exempted.
A federal appeals court has ruled that the Federal Communications Commission went too far with regulations designed to protect consumers from the federal crime of “slamming” – having your long-distance service switched without your consent. The FCC has required long-distance companies to obtain actual authorization from the customer for a switch in service. The company had to obtain a letter authorizing the change or it had to have an independent party call the customer to confirm. A letter or phone call is still required. But in a decision handed down on April 8, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that carriers must only believe they’re dealing with a customer capable of authorizing a switch. If the carrier is wrong, the switch is still illegal. Even with the court’s ruling, however, slamming remains a crime.
Ask Big Bend Telephone for a “primary interexchange carrier” freeze, which prevents any change unless you authorize it in writing
The United States and Texas have a “do not call” list, sign up to limit (but not to eliminate) telemarketing calls. Phone numbers are 1-866-TXNOCAL or 1-888-383-1222: for TTY call 1-866-290-4236 for the nationwide “Do Not Call” list.
Promotions that use “free” checks may authorize a change in long-distance carriers when you endorse a check. Read the terms carefully.
If you’ve been slammed, you are not required to pay the charges for the first 30 days; afterward, you must pay, but at the old company’s rates. Call the carrier you want and ask it to restore your calling plan and remove all “change of carrier” fees. Report the slamming to the FCC, state regulators, or both. The slamming company must pay your long-distance carrier 150 percent of any amount it collected from you. Your authorized company will then refund 50 percent of the charges you paid.
The FCC’s revised rules give states the option of electing to administer the FCC’s preferred carrier change rules. The state agency can be either the public utility commission or another state agency charged with resolving unauthorized changes: Alabama Arkansas California Colorado Connecticut Florida Idaho Indiana Iowa Kansas Kentucky Louisiana Maine Maryland Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota Mississippi Montana Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey New York North Carolina North Dakota Ohio Oklahoma Oregon South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas Utah Vermont Washington Wyoming
Section 64.1150 of the FCC’s preferred carrier change rules govern resolution of unauthorized change complaints. Following are key elements of the Section 64.1150 rules.
Any carrier informed by a subscriber of an unauthorized preferred carrier change must direct the subscriber to the relevant governmental agency (RGA).
Upon receipt of a complaint, the RGA will notify the allegedly unauthorized carrier and order that the carrier remove all unpaid charges for the first 30 days after the slam from the subscriber’s bill pending determination of whether an unauthorized change has occurred.
With 30 days of notification from the RGA, or any shorter period required by a state commission, the alleged unauthorized carrier must provide to the RGA a copy of any valid proof of verification of the preferred carrier change.
The proof of verification must comply with the FCC’s Part 64, Subpart K rules respecting authorization and verification.
Failure by the carrier to respond or provide proof of verification will be presumed to be clear and convincing evidence of an unauthorized change.
If the RGA determines that an unauthorized change has occurred, it will issue an order to the unauthorized carrier directing compliance with the 30-day absolution rule and/or the reimbursement rules. To file a complaint with the FCC, click here: http://esupport.fcc.gov/complaints.htm
Under Section 64.1140 of the FCC’s revised preferred carrier change rules, a subscriber is absolved of paying charges for long distance from an unauthorized carrier for the first 30 days after an unauthorized change so long as the subscriber has not remitted payment for the charges. Any executing carrier (LEC), unauthorized carrier or authorized carrier receiving a report from a subscriber of an unauthorized change must inform the subscriber of the 30-day absolution period. Allegedly unauthorized carriers can challenge the allegation of an unauthorized change so long as they direct the subscriber to file a complaint with the relevant governmental agency responsible for investigation. Alleged unauthorized carriers must remove unpaid charges from subscriber bills, whether or not they are challenging the allegation. Should the relevant governmental investigation indicate that the preferred carrier change was authorized, the charges will be reinstated.
If the subscriber has calls carried by an unauthorized carrier after the 30-day absolution period for which the subscriber has not remitted, payment to the unauthorized carrier, the alleged unauthorized carrier will also remove such charges from the subscriber’s bill and forward the billing detail to the authorized carrier. The authorized carrier has the right to bill the subscriber for unpaid calls carried by the unauthorized carrier beyond the 30-day absolution period. The authorized carrier may either bill such calls at the authorized carrier’s rates or at a proxy rate equal to 50% of the unauthorized carrier’s rates. However, if the authorized carrier bills the calls at a proxy rate, the subscriber has the right to reject that method and require rating at the authorized carrier’s rates.
Section 64.1170 governs reimbursement. If the relevant governmental agency determines that an unauthorized change has occurred and the subscriber has remitted payment to an unauthorized carrier, including charges applicable to the first 30 days, the subscriber will be entitled to a refund equal to 50% of the charges paid to the unauthorized carrier. The authorized carrier will be responsible for remitting the 50% refund to the subscriber within ten days of receiving payment from the unauthorized carrier. The subscriber has the option of asking the authorized carrier to rerate the unauthorized carrier’s charges at the authorized carrier’s rates after which the authorized carrier will seek an additional refund from the unauthorized carrier to the extent that the re-rated amount produces a total credit to the subscriber in excess of 50% of all charges paid by the subscriber to the unauthorized carrier. The authorized carrier does not have to make any refunds to the subscriber if it fails to receive the funds from the unauthorized carrier.
Under Section 1140 of the rules, any carrier submitting an unauthorized change is liable to the authorized carrier for an amount equal for 150% received by the unauthorized carrier from the subscriber. The unauthorized carrier may be liable for additional amounts to the authorized carrier to cover refunds to subscribers calculated under Section 64.1170 where the required refund exceeds 50% of the charges billed by the unauthorized carrier. Moreover, if an authorized carrier incurs billing and collection expenses in collecting charges from the unauthorized carrier, the unauthorized carrier shall reimburse the authorized carrier for such expenses. The FCC rules also allow for additional liability under state law for unauthorized changes.
It is not clear how the FCC’s slamming liability and investigation rules affect LECs with respect to any role they may serve as the billing and collection (B&C) agent of an IXC who is either an authorized or unauthorized carrier in a slamming claim. Essentially, the LEC is acting on behalf of the carrier for whom it is performing billing and collection. In such capacity, the B&C contract may govern how the LEC performs the reimbursement functions. LEC’s should be careful not to act in a manner inconsistent with the FCC’s rules.
The FCC rules govern interstate preferred carrier changes. However, states can choose to apply these rules to intrastate preferred carrier changes. States may also apply state rules to interstate preferred carrier changes. For most states, carriers will need to review both the intrastate and interstate slamming rules and make determinations of how to comply with respect to any areas with different rules.
Significant issues exist regarding how carriers will handle the transfer of funds necessary to comply with the FCC’s reimbursement rules. The industry will likely develop standard procedures for this purpose.