Consumers Union Launches

Rich Tehrani : Communications and Technology Blog -
Rich Tehrani
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Consumers Union Launches

The people at Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports have recently unveiled a site that focuses on what is happening in the communications space. For example, here is a letter that the site will let you easily send to politicians:



I am writing to urge to you to stop phone companies from imposing misleading charges on my monthly phone bill so I can truly compare prices of phone services.  I support the petition filed by the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates and endorsed by other consumer advocacy organizations, including CU.  This petition, CG Docket No. 04-208, Petition for Declaratory Ruling Regarding Truth-In-Billing and Billing Format, is long overdue.


Many consumers feel as I do -- annoyed with a long list of new charges and frustrated with trying to compare prices when shopping for telecommunications service.  Phone bills should be truthful, easy to read and easy to understand.  Instead, the long distance and wireless bills are filled with surcharges with misleading names that imply the line items are mandated by law, when they are not.


Because this practice is tolerated by the FCC, long distance and wireless phone companies are able to hide the true cost of service.  These add-ons make the advertised price of service significantly less than the amount of the check I have to write each month to pay the bill.  Competition will not work if consumers cannot accurately compare prices.


The FCC should immediately grant the NASUCA petition to investigate carrier practices related to line item charges on bills for wireline and wireless phone service; to declare certain practices in violation on the Commission's "Truth in Billing" Order and to prohibit carriers from imposing separate monthly fees, line items or surcharges unless expressly mandated by law or the charge is expressly authorized by a governmental authority.



On the site is also a pretty amusing video that is a parody of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy but instead focusing on media consolidation.


I think the sites views on VoIP could be a bit excessive but raising awareness of safety issues surrounding this new technology is good for us as an industry. As I have said before, we have had lots of positive press If we arent careful and a VoIP customer has a problem with a 911 call, the media will literally bury our industry with negative press.     

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