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Thursday, January 6, 2005

Cases—Filed rate doctrine—Customer can’t bring contract claim over rate filed with FCC

Telephone customers who brought a breach of contract claim after AT&T slapped them with undisclosed charges on their bills were undone by the filed rate doctrine, according to the California Court of Appeals.

AT&T advertised rates to consumers that did not include something called a “Subscriber Line Charge,” which it tacked onto bills when they went out.  AT&T claimed that the amount was “imposed by” the Federal Communications Commission.  It was not, in fact, required.  It was, however, part of AT&T’s voluntary tariff filing with the FCC.

That was enough to trigger the filed rate doctrine, wrote Justice Kathryn Doi Todd.  When a carrier has filed a tariff, allowing a state contract claim against the carrier by some customers would result in them receiving a lower rate than that posted with the FCC, which would be improper.  The contract claims were therefore dismissed. Gallivan v. AT&T Corp., 2004 Cal. App. LEXIS 2150 (2d Dist. Dec. 15, 2004).

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