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Consumer Alert! Watch out for "misleading" ads!

archives from March, 2000

On March 1st, 2000 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued what they call "a joint Policy Statement to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive advertising and marketing of long distance services, including dial-around services [�]" They offered five guidelines for truthful advertising of long distance services:

  • All claims must be 1) truthful, 2) non-misleading, and 3) substantiated;
  • Carriers should disclose all costs consumers may incur, such as per-call minimum charges, monthly fees, and universal service charges;
  • Advertising should disclose any time and/or geographic restriction on the availability of advertised rates;
  • The basis for comparative price claims should be disclosed, and only current information used in making claims; and,
  • Information should be disclosed in a clear and conspicuous manner, and without distracting elements so that consumers can understand it, and make fully informed choices.
That same day, the Enforcement Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission released "an Order adopting a Consent Decree between the Bureau and MCI WORLDCOM, Inc., (MCI WorldCom) in which MCI WorldCom agrees to be bound by various principles regarding its advertising and marketing practices for Dial-Around services and to modify its Casual Billing practices. Under the terms of the Consent Decree, MCI WorldCom will be reviewing all of its current Dial-Around advertisements and will be retracting those that do not meet the terms of the Consent Decree."

Also mentioned in that news release: "MCI WorldCom will also make a voluntary contribution to the U.S. Treasury of $100,000."

A week later NBC News "Dateline" ran a report quoting Nita Lowey, a congresswoman from New York, about legislation she is proposing: "The FCC guidelines are a road map for the telephone companies to follow, whereas my legislation will be a hammer and the telephone companies will have to comply." NBC also said that MCI wrote them " [...] a letter that their advertising not only "meets, but in many respects, exceeds the guidelines recently issued" by the government."

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