On July 23, 2008, more than four years after the complaint was filed, the FCC denied a request by the Center for Communications Management Information, Econobill Corporation, and On Line Marketing Inc. that AT&T be ordered to post more detailed information on its website about the terms and conditions of special deals with large customers. The complainants are consultants who want to know what deals AT&T might be willing to make based on vigorous negotiations.
The FCC observed that while Section 42.10 of the FCC’s Rules does require AT&T to post information about its individually negotiated service offerings, “by design, the rule does not specify (i) a level of detail that must be disclosed, (ii) a particular time within which the information must be disclosed, or (iii) a format for disclosing information. The rule simply states that carriers must disclose ‘information concerning [their] current rates, terms and conditions … in an easy to understand format and in a timely manner.'” Most of the deals in question are made with large, sophisticated customers, and the FCC perceived no market failure that required the customers to be given an extra leg up in negotiations. The FCC concluded that AT&T is in compliance by virtue of disclosure of “(i) the services covered; (ii) the length of the contract; (iii) the minimum revenue commitment, if any; (iv) the credits given, if any; (v) the waiver policy, if any; (vi) the discontinuance policy, if any; (vii) the range of applicable rates for each covered service; and (viii) the range of applicable discounts for covered services.”
The complainants also charged that AT&T does not post the terms and conditions of its individually negotiated deals within the required 24 hours of the date when the agreement is signed — most postings take around 30 days. The FCC disagreed, stating that while the “effective” date of AT&T’s contracts is usually the date of signature, the operative regulatory requirement for posting is based on the effective date of the rate change, which does not occur until later, when AT&T has implemented the necessary back office changes. AT&T claimed that it posts information about deals before the pricing actually becomes effective.
So much for being able to read everyone else’s deal terms before you do your own.