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Cell Phone Customers Deserve Protection

Monday, November 3, 2003
See end of news release for contacts

Cell phone industry lobbying blitz against the “Consumer Bill of Rights” is unfair and misleading

SAN FRANCISCO – Eight national and state consumer organizations are denouncing the wireless phone companies’ well-funded lobbying and public relations campaign against the Telecommunications Consumer Bill of Rights, now pending before the California Public Utilities Commission, as a last ditch effort to undermine public support for the proposal.
The Consumer Bill of Rights requires all telecommunications companies, including wireless carriers, to fully and clearly disclose service and price information; provide accurate bills; and deliver prompt and fair resolution for billing and service problems. The California cell phone companies are running full page ads pushing their unenforceable, voluntary code of conduct as an alternative to the Consumer Bill of Rights.
Consumer organizations supporting the Consumer Bill of Rights include: TURN, UCAN, CALPIRG, the Wireless Consumers Alliance, AARP, the Consumer Federation of America, the National Consumer Law Center and Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports. California consumers can send messages in support of the proposal to the state’s utility commissioners directly through Consumers Union’s website www.EscapeCellHellCA.org , at CALPIRG’S website http://pirg.org/alerts/route.asp?id=541&id4=ES , and via www.TURN.org under “Action.”
“Letting the cell phone industry police itself is akin to letting the fox guard the henhouse after he’s already stolen half of the hens” said Christine Mailloux of TURN. “The conduct that has become the norm in this industry too often leaves wireless customers stuck paying for unsatisfactory service because of exorbitant contract termination fees.”
“Consumers deserve the protection afforded by the PUC’s bill of rights proposal not another round of empty promises from cell phone companies,” said Janee Briesemeister, campaign director of Consumers Union’s campaign site, www.EscapeCellHellCA.org. “Given the thousands of complaints about cell phone service collected by the PUC in recent years, the industry’s voluntary consumer code just doesn’t cut it.”
“Cell phone company executives have their fingers crossed, hoping that the Commissioners will be influenced by their full page ads,” said Jennette Gayer, Consumer Advocate with CALPIRG. “However, we’re convinced the Commissioners will be persuaded by the horror stories coming from cell phone customers who cannot afford to pay for full page ads, nor deceptive billing practices for that matter.”
“Consumers are tired of misleading sales pitches, billing overcharges, dropped calls, and poor customer service, said Michael Shames, Executive Director of the Utility Consumers’ Action Network (UCAN). “Without the Bill of Rights, consumers will continue to have all the burden of protecting themselves from bad deals and getting their problems resolved. The Bill of Rights should take that burden off consumers and make the telecom companies accountable.”
“California often leads the nation in protecting consumers. It’s doing just that in trying to extend consumer protections to wireless phone service,” said Charlie Harak, of the National Consumer Law Center. “As the final vote before the Commission draws near, consumers should insist that the CPUC adopt the Bill of Rights. Californians should tell the commissioners it’s time to get these important, pro-consumer rules out the door.”

Christine Mailloux or Mindy Spatt, TURN, 415-929-8876, ext 306
Michael Shames, UCAN, 619-696-6966
Jennette Gayer, CALPIRG, 213-251-3680
Carl Hilliard, Wireless Consumers Alliance, 858-509-2938
Lupe De La Cruz, AARP, 916-446-2277
Janee Briesemeister, Consumers Union/EscapeCellHellCA.org, 512-477-4431, ext. 117
Charlie Harak, National Consumer Law Center, 617-542-8010
Mark Cooper, Consumer Federation of America, 202-387-6121