The Vermont Statutes Online
The Vermont Statutes Online have been updated to include the actions of the 2023 session of the General Assembly.
NOTE: The Vermont Statutes Online is an unofficial copy of the Vermont Statutes Annotated that is provided as a convenience.
Chapter 005 : State Policy; Plans; Jurisdiction and Regulatory Authority of Commission and Department
Subchapter 001 : General Powers(Cite as: 30 V.S.A. § 231a)
§ 231a. Registration of billing aggregators
(a) Definitions. As used in this section, unless the context otherwise indicates:
(1) “Bill” means a direct statement of payments due and any other form of notice soliciting payment.
(2) “Billing agent” means a local exchange carrier or other person offering telecommunications service who includes in a bill it sends to a customer a charge for a product or service offered by a service provider.
(3) “Billing aggregator” means any person, other than a service provider, who forwards the charge for a product or service offered by a service provider to a billing agent.
(4) “Service provider” means any person, other than the billing agent, that offers a product or service to a customer, the charge for which appears on the bill of a billing agent.
(5) “Telecommunications carrier” means a company subject to the jurisdiction of the Public Utility Commission under subdivision 203(5) of this title.
(6) “Unauthorized service” means the provision of any service or product by a service provider that a customer has not authorized, and for which a charge appears on the customer’s telephone bill. Charges for collect calls shall be exempt from this section.
(b) Registration requirements. Except as provided in this subsection, no billing aggregator may forward charges for a service or product offered by a service provider to a billing agent for presentation to a customer, unless the billing aggregator is registered with the Public Utility Commission. A registration properly filed with the Public Utility Commission takes effect 14 days after the filing date, unless the Department of Public Service objects to the registration and provides notice of its objection to the registrant within the 14 days. If the Department of Public Service objects to the registration, the registration does not become effective, unless expressly approved by the Public Utility Commission. The Public Utility Commission shall offer a person whose registration has been rejected an opportunity for a hearing. A registration, once effective, remains effective until revoked by the Public Utility Commission or surrendered by the holder. A company that provides telecommunications service in this State pursuant to a certificate of public good or equivalent authority under this title is not required to be registered under this subsection.
(c) Revocation of registration; notice.
(1) After opportunity for hearing, the Public Utility Commission may revoke the registration of a billing aggregator who has:
(A) provided false or deceptive information in registering under this section;
(B) knowingly, negligently, or repeatedly forwarded a charge to a billing agent for a product or service that the consumer did not authorize;
(C) failed to provide a notice to customers as required by rule or order of the Public Utility Commission, or otherwise failed to comply with a rule or order of the Public Utility Commission; or
(D) engaged in any other false or deceptive practices.
(2) Immediately following a revocation of registration under this subsection, the Public Utility Commission shall provide notice of the revocation, in a form and manner established by the Public Utility Commission by rule, to all telecommunications carriers doing business in this State.
(d) Procedure upon complaint. If a customer of a telecommunications carrier claims that a charge for an unauthorized service has been included in the customer’s telephone bill, the telecommunications carrier shall immediately suspend collection efforts on that portion of the customer’s bill. The telecommunications carrier shall either cease collection efforts entirely with regard to the disputed charge or request evidence from the billing aggregator that the customer authorized the service for which payment is sought. If the telecommunications carrier ceases collection efforts or sufficient evidence of customer authorization is not presented to the telecommunications carrier within a reasonable time, the telecommunications carrier shall immediately remove any charges associated with the unauthorized service from the customer’s bill and refund to the customer any amounts paid for the unauthorized service that were billed by the telecommunications carrier during the six months prior to the customer’s complaint. If sufficient evidence of customer authorization is provided to the telecommunications carrier, the telecommunications carrier may restore the charges on the customer’s bill and reinstitute collection efforts. The customer or the billing aggregator may appeal the telecommunications carrier’s determination to the Public Utility Commission.
(e) Enforcement authority. In addition to any other authority the Public Utility Commission may have pursuant to other law, the Public Utility Commission may enforce the provisions of this section in accordance with this subsection:
(1) In an adjudicatory proceeding, the Public Utility Commission may impose an administrative penalty upon the following entities for the following violations:
(A) a billing aggregator who forwards charges to a billing agent for an unauthorized product or service;
(B) a billing aggregator who is required to be registered under subsection (b) of this section and who is not properly registered pursuant to that subsection and who forwards charges for a product or service that appear on the bill of a billing agent;
(C) a billing agent who knowingly bills on behalf of a billing aggregator who is required to be registered under subsection (b) of this section and who is not properly registered pursuant to that subsection at the time the bill which is to be sent to the customer is generated, except that a billing agent who bills on behalf of a billing aggregator whose registration has been revoked shall not be subject to administrative penalty if the bill which is to be sent to the customer was generated within 14 days of the revocation of the registration and the billing agent did not have actual notice of the revocation;
(D) a telecommunications carrier that, without having first obtained evidence of authorization that the telecommunications carrier believed in good faith to be sufficient, does not remove the charges for any service which is the subject of a complaint under subsection (d) of this section and does not refund to the customer any amounts paid for the unauthorized service that were billed by the telecommunications carrier during the six months prior to the customer’s complaint. For purposes of this section, evidence that a call was dialed from the number that is the subject of the charge shall be considered sufficient evidence of authorization for that call.
(2) The amount of any administrative penalty imposed under subdivision (1) of this subsection may not exceed $1,000.00 per violation arising out of the same incident or complaint, and must be based on:
(A) the severity of the violation, including the intent of the violator, the nature, circumstances, extent, and gravity of any prohibited acts;
(B) the history of previous violations; and
(C) the amount necessary to deter future violations.
(f) Rulemaking. The Public Utility Commission shall adopt such rules as it deems necessary to implement this section. (Added 1999, No. 67 (Adj. Sess.), § 4.)