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Consumers Union Urges California Public Utilities Commission To End “Cell Hell” For Consumers

Contact: Janee Briesemeister (512) 477-4431 x 117

Statement of Janee Briesemeister,
Consumers Union Senior Policy Analyst, on
California Telecommunications Consumer Bill of Rights

SAN FRANCISCO — “Today could mark the beginning of the end of “cell hell” for California consumers. After more than a year of meetings with industry representatives and consumers, California Public Utilities Commissioner Carl Wood has released the final version of his proposed Telecommunications Consumer Bill of Rights. Consumers Union is reviewing Commissioner Wood’s latest Medicare Modernization Act , but is fully supportive of his goal of giving consumers clear and enforceable rights in the ever-changing telecommunications market.
“When first introduced, the Bill of Rights covered local and long distance phone service, and was nationally significant because it would for the first time extend consumer protections to wireless phone service. It was crafted in response to a deluge of consumer complaints especially about wireless service. Under deregulation, many consumers have seen their phone service degrade as carriers pay too little attention to delivering the basics, such as accurate bills and good customer service.
“The need for stronger consumer protection is clear; whether the CPUC will fully address the need is still in question. The Bill of Rights proposal has been under attack by industry, particularly by cell phone companies, which claim that consumers don’t need it. But consumers are telling us that the cell phone market is more like a “cell hell” and they want out. They’re tired of misleading sales pitches, billing overcharges, dropped calls, and poor customer service. Now consumers 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.
“We applaud Commissioner Wood on his efforts and will now take the consumer message to the full CPUC. We will ask them to adopt a strong Bill of Rights that 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.”
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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.