Open Mobile, one of the five wireless carriers serving the Puerto Rico market, has been spared from paying a $20,000 fine to the Federal Communications Commission for faltering to adequately report how it goes about protecting subscribers’ private information.
The federal watchdog waived the fine late last week, after Open Mobile submitted a certification stating it had followed FCC rules regarding customer privacy. However, resolving the matter will cost the carrier $5,000, which it voluntarily agreed to pay the federal government for the matter dating to 2008.
The issue came up when the FCC detected that Open Mobile had possibly violated Section 222 of the agency’s regulations, requiring carriers to protect the confidentiality of their subscribers’ proprietary information. Basically, the FCC required carriers to establish and maintain systems to ensure their customers’ information was safe.
The agency buckled down on its privacy requirements in 2006, after companies known as “data brokers” advertised the availability of records of incoming and outgoing wireless calls, which it sold to third parties for a fee. A year later, the agency issued a blanket order requiring companies, including wireless carriers, to submit an annual certification complying with the privacy requirements. A deadline of March 1 was imposed.
In June 2008, the FCC’s Telecommunications Consumer Division’s Enforcement Bureau asked Open Mobile to provide copies and evidence that it had filed its 2007 report in a timely manner. After determining that the carrier had failed to provide sufficient documentation proving that it filed the certification by March 1, 2008, the FCC included Open Mobile in a group of companies facing a $20,000 fine.
However, Open Mobile appealed the decision, entering into settlement discussions with the FCC. Among other things, Open Mobile agreed to train its staff on consumer privacy issues and comply with the certification submission deadlines.
The carrier, which has carved out a niche for itself on the island through it pre-paid, no-contract-required offers, also agreed to the voluntary $5,000 “contribution” to the U.S. Treasury.
Open Mobile is one of five local carriers — along with AT&T de Puerto Rico, Claro, T-Mobile and Sprint PCS — disputing for the estimated 2.7 million wireless customers that make up Puerto Rico’s competitive calling market.