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Consumers Union Kicks Off “EscapeCellHell.Org” Campaign

September 23, 2003
Contact: Janee Briesemeister, brieja@consumer.org (512) 477-4431 ext. 117
Susan Herold, sherold@consumer.org (202) 462-6262

Consumers Union Kicks Off “EscapeCellHell.Org” Campaign

(Washington, DC) – Consumers Union, the independent, non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports, launched a campaign today to increase consumers’ power to improve service and options in the wireless phone market by convincing Congress and states to expand customers’ rights and protections.
Starting today, consumers can access the campaign Web site, EscapeCellHell.org, to tell lawmakers in Washington they want the right to keep their current cell phone number if they switch providers. EscapeCellHell.org allows users to contact their members of Congress directly, urging them to uphold a November 24 Federal Communications Commission deadline requiring companies give customers their phone numbers when they change providers.
The rule has been postponed for nearly four years due to industry-backed delays, and is being threatened again because some cell phone companies are lobbying members of Congress to block its implementation.
“What’s outrageous is that at the same time cell phone companies are trying to stop consumers from taking their phone numbers with them when they switch carriers, most are collecting hundreds of millions of dollars in number portability fees on cell phone bills, which means consumers are paying for a service that they are not getting,” said Janee Briesemeister, campaign director of EscapeCellHell.org.
One-third of the nearly 22,000 subscribers www.ConsumerReports.org surveyed last fall said they were seriously considering changing wireless phone companies, but one of the major reasons they cited for not doing so was that they did not want to get a new phone number. Changing phone numbers is an incredible hassle and inconvenience for all consumers, particularly those who use their cell phones for business.
“If consumers can take their phone number with them, cell phone companies are going to have to fight for their business, and that competition means better prices and service,” Briesemeister added. “The campaign is working to ensure Congress doesn’t kill or postpone this pro-competition, pro-consumer rule, only two months before it is slated to take effect.”
Many cell phone users also find they are locked in a virtual “cell hell” of dropped calls, dead zones and billing nightmares. The EscapeCellHell.org campaign will soon focus on improving 911 service for cell phone users and seek passage of the California Telecommunications Consumer Bill of Rights, a set of new consumer safeguards that would cover the cell phone industry for the first time. The campaign will support similar efforts in other states and at the national level.
“By letting policymakers know they’re fed up with the service they’re getting, consumers can make a real difference on the rules cell phone companies have to follow when it comes to the service they provide,” Briesemeister said.

Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, is an independent nonprofit testing, educational and information organization serving only the consumer. We are a comprehensive source of unbiased advice about products and services, personal finance, health, nutrition and other consumer concerns. Since 1936, our mission has been to test products, inform the public and protect consumers.