Thursday, January 6, 2005
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).