HOUSE BILL 475
49th legislature - STATE OF NEW MEXICO - first session, 2009
RELATING TO TELECOMMUNICATIONS; PROVIDING PROTECTION FOR CONSUMERS OF TELECOMMUNICATIONS SERVICES; PRESCRIBING PENALTIES; DECLARING AN EMERGENCY.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO:
Section 1. SHORT TITLE.--This act may be cited as the "Telecommunications Consumer Protection Act".
Section 2. FINDINGS AND PURPOSE.--
A. The legislature finds that:
(1) in today's complex and rapidly changing technological environment, individuals, businesses and governments rely on a diverse array of interconnected systems, employing a variety of modalities, to communicate electronically;
(2) regardless of different regulatory jurisdictions, consumers need assurance of reliable service, including protection from unreasonable interruption or discontinuance of service, and a forum for complaints to be heard in an expeditious and affordable manner; and
(3) as provided in Article 11, Section 13 of the constitution of New Mexico, when necessary for the public good and general welfare, any corporation doing business in this state may be regulated, limited or restrained by laws not in conflict with the constitution of the United States or the constitution of New Mexico.
B. It is the purpose of the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Act to further the public interest and protect the safety, health and welfare of the people of New Mexico by ensuring that consumers, including commercial and governmental entities, are protected from unreasonable interruptions or discontinuation of vital telecommunications and information services and provided with regulatory oversight to address legitimate complaints.
Section 3. DEFINITIONS.--As used in the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Act:
A. "commission" means the public regulation commission;
B. "consumer" means a person who purchases retail or wholesale telecommunications service from a provider;
C. "discontinuance of service" means an intentional cessation of service by a provider not voluntarily requested by a consumer;
D. "provider" means:
(1) a telephone company, transmission company, telecommunications common carrier, telecommunications company, cellular or other wireless telecommunications service company;
(2) a company that provides a cable television service, a broadband or high-speed internet service, an information or internet service or a voice over internet protocol service;
(3) a telecommunications reseller; or
(4) any other person that provides retail telecommunications service to a consumer; and
E. "telecommunications service" means the transmission of signs, signals, writings, images, sounds, messages, data or other information of any nature by wire, radio, lightwaves or other electromagnetic means or goods and services related to the transmission of information that are provided by the provider.
Section 4. COMMISSION POWERS AND DUTIES--RULEMAKING.--
A. The commission shall enforce the provisions of the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Act against anyone regulated in whole or in part by the commission or over whom the commission is given regulatory authority by state or federal law.
B. The commission may hold a provider liable for the actions of its employees, officers, affiliates and agents, and a provider's officers and employees liable for their own actions.
C. The commission shall promulgate rules:
(1) on what constitutes discontinuance of service and under what circumstances it may be permissible;
(2) prohibiting discontinuance of service where the public health, safety and welfare may be adversely affected;
(3) establishing procedures for the discontinuance of service, including provisions for proper notice to consumers and third parties, offers of payment plans and the timing of disconnection;
(4) governing restoration of service after disconnection of services;
(5) defining essential governmental services; and
(6) necessary to implement the provisions of the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Act.
D. The commission shall establish an expedited consideration process for investigation and resolution of complaints filed with the commission pursuant to the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Act, including the hearing of formal complaints.
Section 5. PROHIBITED ACTS--COMPLAINTS FILED WITH COMMISSION.--
A. A provider shall not:
(1) discontinue service to offices that provide essential governmental services;
(2) discontinue service to health care facilities;
(3) discontinue service without providing proper notice to consumers;
(4) unreasonably or improperly threaten to discontinue service to a consumer; or
(5) fail to restore service in response to a valid request to restore service.
B. A consumer or provider, who may also be a consumer, or commission staff may file a complaint with the commission alleging violation of the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Act or the rules promulgated by the commission to implement that act. A consumer or provider, who may also be a consumer, or commission staff may file a complaint alleging threats of improper discontinuance of service. The commission may combine complaints.
Section 6. ADMINISTRATIVE PENALTIES--APPEALS.--
A. If the commission finds after investigation, notice and hearing that a provider engaged in any conduct that the provider knew or should have known was a violation of the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Act or any applicable law or rule or order of the commission, it may assess an administrative penalty of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000) for each violation or each of multiple violations arising out of the same facts, up to a maximum of twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) or an administrative penalty of not more than twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) per day for each day of a continuing violation arising out of the same facts.
B. The amount of the fine should bear a reasonable relationship to the nature and severity of the violation. The commission shall consider mitigating and aggravating circumstances in determining the amount of the administrative fine imposed.
C. In addition to the fines authorized in Subsection A of this section, the commission may impose an administrative fine not to exceed one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) for each violation that results in substantial harm to the consumers of the provider or substantial harm to the public interest.
D. The remedies and penalties provided for in the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Act are in addition to any other penalties that may be imposed pursuant to any other state law or any other remedies available to consumers.
E. Any provider or other person aggrieved by an order assessing an administrative fine may appeal the order to the supreme court. A notice of appeal shall be filed within thirty days after the entry of the commission's order. Notice of appeal shall name the commission as appellee and shall identify the order from which the appeal is taken.
Section 7. EMERGENCY.--It is necessary for the public peace, health and safety that this act take effect immediately.
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