FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2004
Susanna Montezemolo, (202) 462-6262
(Washington, D.C.) — Consumers Union today applauded Senate Commerce Committee members for approving a bill that would give cell phone customers control over their phone numbers, and is urging a House panel to do the same next week when it considers the bill, to ensure the privacy protections can become law before the wireless industry launches its 411 directory.
“Public support for this bill is overwhelming, and Congress needs to pass it now because the wireless industry is expected to launch a 411 directory within the coming months,” said Janee Briesemeister, director of Consumers Union’s EscapeCellHell.org project, noting that 15,000 consumers have e-mailed Congress through the Web site in support of the bill.
“Without these protections in law, many consumers may find in a few months that their private cell phone number is no longer private,” Briesemeister said.
The Senate panel approved S. 1963, the “Wireless 411 Privacy Act,” that would prohibit cell phone companies from charging new fees to customers who want to keep their number out of the directory. An amendment offered by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) was approved on a 12-10 vote that would require all customers first give their permission in writing to be in the directory. The bill as introduced only required existing customers to give permission to be listed; new customers would have been listed in the directory unless they “opted-out.”
“We thank Senator Boxer and the other committee members who put consumers’ privacy concerns above the interests of the wireless industry,” said Susanna Montezemolo, CU policy advocate. “By making sure the companies get permission before they place a number in the database, all customers will enjoy the same high level of privacy protection.”
Consumers Union is urging the House to pass the same measure quickly so it can move to a full vote before the Congressional session ends.