(Albany NY) – Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (Brooklyn) is advocating for the consumer by fighting to protect New Yorkers from the relatively unregulated practices of cell phone companies. Ortiz has introduced legislation which would enact a cell phone users’ “Bill of Rights”.
“One of my constituents contacted me with their story of how one of their company’s employee cell phones was lost and they ended up having $22,000 dollars worth of international calls placed on the stolen phone within a week before it could be cancelled. I am sure that there are many cases similar to this, and it proves that we need to do a better job of informing our consumers about their contracts and a better job of protecting them from fraud” stated Ortiz.
The legislation includes requirements that: cell phone companies include a risk-free thirty day trial period; phone bills contain only charges for services authorized by the consumer; there be a written confirmation of any cell phone order, including rates and terms for each service ordered in easy-to-read format; cell phone companies monitor calling trends and place “courtesy calls” similar to those given by credit card companies when calling patterns seem out of the ordinary; and, bills contain the nature and origin of all fees.
The cellular phone industry is booming with no end in sight. Last year, the Telecommunications Industry Association reported that the revenues exceeded $102 billion and more than 675 million new cell phones were sold. Meanwhile, due to the lack of legislation regulating these companies, consumers are at an enormous financial risk. Unlike credit cards, if a cell phone is lost or stolen the owner is held responsible for 100% of the fraudulent charges on the phone until the account is de-activated. Cell phone companies will not contact customers regarding suspicious use of their account because they are under no legal obligation to do so.
Ortiz sponsored the first law banning the use of cell phones in cars and believes we should take the lead in protecting cell phone consumers’ rights. “I expect that my fellow elected officials will recognize the need for this bill to pass. As a public servant, it is my duty to ensure that my fellow New Yorkers consumer rights are protected. My cell phone ‘Bill of Rights’ is an important step in guaranteeing this.”