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12/23/2005
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California Agency Proposes Telecom User Bill Of Rights

Among other things, the proposal calls for extensive consumer education and limits so-called non-communications charges that telecom operators can charge customers.

Two members of California's Public Utilities Commission (PUC) Thursday proposed a bill of rights that they said was aimed at preventing consumer fraud committed against wireless and wireline phone consumers. The trade organization representing cellular carriers immediately responding, saying it wasn't necessary.

"The proposed decision recognizes that the telecommunications market is changing every day and our efforts to protect consumers must adapt to those changes," PUC president Michael R. Peevey said in a statement. "We must be able to identify fraud and abuse at the speed of today's market and step in quickly where necessary to protect consumers."

Peevey made the proposal with commission member Susan P. Kennedy. The proposal calls for extensive consumer education, states consumer rights and clarifies the nature of so-called non-communications charges that telecom operators can put on bills to consumers. Kennedy and Peevey said in a statement that the current rules about non-communications charges prevent the use of cell phones to buy services and items such as movies and music.

The CTIA, the trade organization of cellular carriers, immediately issued expressing concern about the proposal.

"Our primary concern is, always has been, and will continue to be, that state rules place the consumer at risk of having fewer choices and paying more for their wireless service," CTIA CEO Steve Largent said in a statement. "We also maintain that new rules aren't necessary, since wireless companies are already subject to California's existing consumer laws."

Largent praised Peevey and Kennedy for their goal, but indicated that some compromise was necessary.

"I believe their intentions are true, and I hope we can continue to work toward the best interest of the wireless consumer," Largent said.

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