Can I use another telephone company for local service?
Laws were enacted on both the federal and state level that permit the entry of competitive local telephone companies. Federal laws include provisions which exempt certain incumbent rural telephone carriers from requirements that will affect competitive local carriers’ ability to serve in rural areas. If you are located in the telephone service area served by BellSouth and Verizon, then your area may be served by another local telephone company. Some alternative local telephone companies do not serve all market areas. Also, it may be too costly for alternative carriers to serve consumers in rural markets. In order to properly consider another telephone company, you will need to contact that carrier to determine its availability in your area.
Where can I find listings for contacting competitive local carriers?
Incumbent carriers have contact information for all local service providers in the Customer Guides section of their telephone directory. Also, a listing of all telecommunications carriers can be found here.
Do all services offered by telecommunications carriers have regulatory oversight?
No. Internet services, broadband service used to access Internet services, and video service offered by telecommunications carriers are not subject to regulatory oversight. Also, service plans for wiring and equipment maintenance and voicemail services are not subject to regulatory oversight. Recently enacted laws mandate that when regulated services are offered in combination ("bundled") with non-regulated services, then bundled service packages are not subject to regulatory oversight. When subscribing to bundled packages, consumers need to understand the terms of the bundled offering. For example, consumers need to understand whether they are committing to long-term plans or month-to-month plans.
As a consumer, what should I do if I’m not satisfied with my telecommunications service?
As a general rule, consumers have the right to file a complaint with a telephone utility. If you are not satisfied with the company’s response, you may choose to file a complaint with the S.C. Office of Regulatory Staff. The Consumer Services Division of the ORS resolves disputes or settles inquiries on an informal basis between customers and investor-owned utilities (not municipally operated) in South Carolina. You may contact the Consumer Services Division by accessing their online consumer complaint/inquiry form.
As noted earlier, recently enacted legislation removed any regulatory oversight of services offered as part of bundled packages. Therefore, your ability to resolve a dispute concerning bundled services on an informal basis may be limited. You may need to pursue resolution through a formal procedure which could require your retaining legal representation. If you are dissatisfied with a specific carrier, your best solution may be to seek service through an alternative carrier.
Does the S.C. Office of Regulatory Staff provide regulatory oversight for my long-distance service?
No, complaints in that arena should be directed to the Federal Communications Commission or the Federal Trade Commission. Information about their programs can be found at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/menu-call.htm.
How can I obtain a copy of a company's annual report?
Annual reports are considered public records (unless protected under the Commission's confidentiality rules) and may be requested by following the procedure outlined in the Freedom of Information Act page on this web site.