On June 21, 2017, the FCC released a Declaratory Ruling granting ACA and NCTA’s request that cable operators be able to deliver annual notices via electronic distribution. Specifically, the FCC clarified that cable operators may provide annual notices via e-mail to a verified email address so long as an operator also includes a mechanism for customers to opt out of e-mail delivery and continue to receive paper notices.
Background. In the 1992 Cable Act, Congress amended Section 632 of the Communications Act to require the FCC to adopt customer service standards for cable operators. Congress also directed the FCC to “establish standards by which cable operators may fulfill their customer service requirements” and specified that “[s]uch standards shall include, at a minimum, requirements governing . . . communications between the cable operator and the subscriber (including standards governing bills and refunds.”
The FCC implemented the required customer service standards in 1993. FCC rules require cable operators, under Section 76.1602(b), to provide subscribers with written information, at the time of installation, at least annually, and at any time upon request, about the following:
- Products and services offered;
- Prices and options for programming services and conditions of subscription to programming and other services;
- Installation and service maintenance policies;
- Instructions on how to use the cable service;
- Channel positions of programming carried on the system;
- Billing and complaint procedures, including the address and telephone number of the local franchise authority's cable office;
- Assessed fees for rental of navigation devices and single and additional CableCARDs; and
- If the operator includes equipment in the price of a bundled offer of one or more services, the fees reasonably allocable to the rental of single and additional CableCARDs and rental of operator-supplied navigation devices.
Compliance. The FCC clarified that the “written information” that cable operators must provide to their subscribers pursuant to Section 76.1602(b) may be provided electronically if the cable operator sends the information to a verified e-mail address and provides a mechanism for customers to opt out of e-mail delivery and continue to receive paper notices.
For an email address to be verified for purposes of this rule, it must be an e-mail address that:
(i) The customer has provided to the cable operator (and not vice versa);
(ii) The customer regularly uses to communicate with the cable operator; or
(iii) Has been confirmed by the customer as an appropriate vehicle for the delivery of notices.
For example, an email address that a cable operator supplies to a customer when they sign up for its broadband Internet access service would not, standing alone, qualify as a verified e-mail contact without an additional indication from the customer that they use that address and that the address may be used as an appropriate means for delivering notices.
Each e-mailed notice must also inform the customer that they may request and receive a paper version of the notice instead of e-mail delivery and must clearly and prominently include a telephone number which the customer can call to opt out of e-mail notifications.
Effective Date. This Declaratory Ruling will become effective upon the date specified in a notice published in the Federal Register announcing Office of Management and Budget approval.
If you have any questions about customer notice or other regulatory requirements, please contact Scott Friedman at (312) 372-3930 or email@example.com or Bruce Beard at (314) 394-1535 or firstname.lastname@example.org.