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Detariffing- What It Is and How It Will Affect Consumers

Beginning August 1, 2001, your relationship with your long distance carrier will change as a result of an order from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Read on to find out how it will change and what it means for you.

WHAT IS THE CHANGE?

Effective August 1, 2001, per FCC order, all long distance companies must withdraw their tariffs on file with the FCC for long distance service and are not permitted to file any more tariffs with the FCC.

A tariff is a statement of all the terms and conditions of a carrier's service, including rates. Until August 1, 2001, the tariff controls the relationship between consumers and their chosen long distance telecommunications carriers.

Once the FCC order takes effect on August 1, 2001, the tariffs will be canceled, and the relationship between consumers and their carriers automatically will be governed by contract. Consumers do not need to act in order for this change to occur.

After August 1, 2001, carriers are required to make available to the public, in a timely manner and an understandable format, information concerning their current rates, terms, and conditions for all of their long distance services. In addition, if a carrier has a website, it shall make this information available on its website and update the information regularly.

HOW WILL THIS CHANGE AFFECT ME?

If you are a customer of AT&T, MCI WorldCom, or Sprint, you will be receiving, if you have not already received, a notice from the company explaining this change and providing you with a service agreement or contract describing the terms and conditions of your relationship with your carrier. Some of the information explained in the service agreement/contract will include:

  • the price you pay for the service you are receiving
  • this may be by reference to another document which you must request from your long distance company or may access through the Internet;
  • the duration of the agreement
  • for example, are you required to remain a customer of the long distance company for a certain number of months, or are you free to switch companies without penalty?;
  • how to accept the terms and conditions of the contract
  • in many cases, by continuing to use the long distance company's service, you have accepted the terms and conditions;
  • the method the long distance company will use to notify you of changes in the terms and conditions of service
  • the method could be a letter in the mail, a message in your long distance bill, or some other method of notice
  • a change in a term or condition could be a price increase; and
  • how disputes between you and your long distance company will be resolved
  • the agreement may call for you to participate in mandatory binding arbitration
  • you may be giving up any right to go to court (except small claims court in some instances)
  • you may be required to pay a filing fee
  • any legal claim you have against the long distance company could be governed by the law of another state
  • you may be required to travel to another state to participate in arbitration

When considering whether to remain with your current long distance carrier or to choose a new one, you may want to consider the factors listed above.

If you have a complaint about a long distance company, you can contact the Consumer Fraud Bureau of the Attorney General's office by calling the appropriate toll-free telephone number listed below. You can download a consumer complaint form from the Attorney General's website (www.IllinoisAttorneyGeneral.gov).

1-800-386-5438 (Chicago)

1-800-243-0618 (Springfield)

1-800-243-0607 (Carbondale)

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