Business & Finance
News
2/27/2008
03:29 PM
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Congress Considers Wireless Consumer Rights Bill

A House Subcommittee hearing on the issue comes at a time when U.S. consumers are increasingly frustrated by their cell phone service.

Congress could pass a consumer rights bill for cell phones.

The House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet held a hearing Wednesday on consumer rights regarding mobile phones and a proposal to pass a law protecting them.

The hearing comes at a time when U.S. consumers are increasingly frustrated by their cell phone service. A recent Consumer Reports survey of 47,000 people in 20 major metropolitan areas found fewer than half were completely or very satisfied with their provider. It has been among the lowest-rated services by Consumer Reports for the past six years.

U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, has proposed a bill that would require the Federal Communications Commission to require carriers to offer plans without early termination fees and ban fees unless they have FCC approval. The Wireless Consumer Protection and Community Broadband Empowerment Act of 2008 would also require wireless providers to offer month-long trials and provide customers with coverage maps. Finally, it would stop governments from banning municipal broadband efforts.

U.S. Rep. John D. Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, said that while cell phone adoption soars, consumers are complaining more often. He said complaints commonly center on confusing or unfair contract terms and extensions, inability to switch carriers because of high early termination fees, and poor coverage.

"These complaints, in turn, have prompted some States to pass or attempt to pass corrective legislation," he said in a statement entered into the Congressional record. "The wireless industry is then faced with regulatory regimes that vary state by state. Sometimes these state requirements conflict with each other, making uniform compliance costly and difficult."

For that reason, several wireless providers said they support federal rules, but they cautioned against over regulation that could stifle innovation.

Dingell said it is important to strike a balance, though he doesn't think that will be easy.

"The national framework must provide meaningful and enforceable consumer protections," he said. "At the same time, it must be reasonable so that industry continues to make the investments in wireless networks that have created thousands of jobs and can benefit consumers across the country." Dingell commended Markey for drafting a proposal but he indicated that the bill should be used as a starting point for negotiations.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
The Business of Going Digital
The Business of Going Digital
Digital business isn't about changing code; it's about changing what legacy sales, distribution, customer service, and product groups do in the new digital age. It's about bringing big data analytics, mobile, social, marketing automation, cloud computing, and the app economy together to launch new products and services. We're seeing new titles in this digital revolution, new responsibilities, new business models, and major shifts in technology spending.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join InformationWeek’s Lorna Garey and Mike Healey, president of Yeoman Technology Group, an engineering and research firm focused on maximizing technology investments, to discuss the right way to go digital.
Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.