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Tell Congress you want control over your cell phone number

Think Your Cell Phone Number is Private? Think Again:
Wireless Industry Trying to Produce 411 Directory
Consumers Union Launches Campaign to Give You Control
Over Your Cell Phone Number

Thursday, June 24, 2004
Contact: Susan Herold
(202) 462-6262
(Washington, D.C.) – As the wireless industry scrambles to produce a 411 database of customers’ cell phone numbers, Consumers Union today launched a campaign to give consumers control over their phone numbers and ensure they won’t be charged for keeping their numbers private.
By visiting the Web site EscapeCellHell.org, consumers can send a free email to Congress supporting pending legislation that would restrict how cell phone numbers are made public, and prohibit the cell phone companies from charging customers to keep them out of the directory.
“We believe it should be the consumer’s decision to have their cell phone number listed in a 411 directory, not the industry’s decision,” said Janee Briesemeister, director of EscapeCellHell.org. “But Congress has to act quickly, because the wireless industry is already writing their own voluntary rules for their new 411 directory. The industry’s promise to get consumers’ permission to be in the directory could be short-lived without legislation.
“The cell phone companies also are curiously silent about whether they will put new monthly fees on bills of consumers who want to keep their numbers unlisted,” she added.
The bi-partisan legislation, called the Wireless 411 Privacy Act (S 1963, S 1973 and HR 3558), has been stalled in Congress. Neither the Senate nor House has held hearings on the bills, which would require cell phone companies to first get permission from their existing customers before including them in a directory. Consumers Union is urging the bills be amended to extend the up-front permission requirement to new customers as well. As currently written, the bills say customers signing up for new service will be included in the directory unless they opt-out.
“It is vital that all cell phone customers give their permission to be in a directory, because unlike traditional phones, cell phone customers have to pay for every unwanted incoming call or text message,” Briesemeister said.
Similar legislation that would give existing and new cell phone customers the right to “opt-in” to a wireless directory is currently working its way through the California Legislature.
For more information on the issue, go to www.HearUsNow.org.