April 27, 2006
More Consumer Protections Needed As House Moves Forward
(Washington, DC) — Consumers Union, the non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports, applauded House passage earlier this week of legislation imposing federal criminal penalties on those who use fraudulent and misleading tactics to obtain consumers’ private telephone records.
“Who you call, when you call them and how long you talked is nobody’s business but the caller’s,” said Magda Herrera of Consumers Union. “The stiff criminal penalties in the bill will help deter the unscrupulous tactics used by fraudsters to access consumers’ private records and sell them for a profit.”
The Telephone Records and Privacy Protection Act, H.R. 4709, introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) imposes criminal fines and prison terms of up to 10 years for “pretexting” – the act of using false pretenses and other misrepresentations to acquire another’s private phone records.
“This is a key component of a comprehensive solution to phone records privacy. Criminal penalties are a deterrent, but more needs to be done to require phone companies to protect consumers’ private phone records before they fall into the hands of bad actors,” added Herrera
Next week, the House of Representatives plans to take up a related bill reported earlier by the House Energy and Commerce Committee that requires phone companies to take preventative steps to prevent fraudulent access to subscriber records. The Prevention of Fraudulent Access to Phone Records Act, sponsored by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) and Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), prohibits the sale of consumer phone records, gives consumers greater control over whether their phone carrier can share their private records with their business partners and requires carriers to adopt more stringent safeguards to prevent fraudsters from accessing consumer records.
Related phone record privacy measures are pending in the Senate.
Over 55,000 consumers sent letters to Congress on the issue of phone record privacy, aided by www.HearUsNow.org , a project of Consumers Union.
Magda Herrera 202-462-6262