WHEREAS, the wireless telecommunications industry as of December 2003 serves over 160 million subscribers in the United States, representing a nationwide penetration rate of nearly 54% and an annual growth rate of 13% in a largely unregulated environment;

WHEREAS, wireless providers often represent and market wireless telecommunications service as a substitute for traditional landline service;

WHEREAS, wireless providers are increasingly seeking, and obtaining, designation as eligible telecommunications carriers under Section 214 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended;

WHEREAS, telecommunications consumers increasingly rely on wireless service to meet their basic communications needs;

WHEREAS, many wireless service providers: (1) offer notoriously poor customer service, (2) fail to clearly and conspicuously disclose material terms and conditions of service in advertising or other communications to consumers, (3) erect artificial barriers to prevent or make unreasonably difficult an efficient marketplace comparison of wireless products and services, and (4) use penalty clauses or other punitive measures to deter consumers from terminating service plans that do not comport with the price or quality of service conveyed in carrier advertising or other communications;

WHEREAS, consumers are often unable to accurately determine where service is available to them, and are misled by inaccurate, difficult to understand, or exaggerated coverage maps offered by the provider;

WHEREAS, spotty service and general dissatisfaction with wireless carriers generated over 21,000 consumer complaints in 2003 to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the Better Business Bureau currently ranks the wireless industry second only to car dealers in consumer complaints;

WHEREAS, despite the recent multistate settlement among Cingular, Sprint PCS, and Verizon Wireless and 32 state Attorneys General and other notable efforts to create wireless service quality and consumer protection standards, wireless consumers continue to be:  (1) locked into long-term service contracts, (2) misled or confused by inaccurate service coverage maps, (3) unable to access or receive adequate 911 emergency service, and (4) frustrated by bills containing surreptitious, ostensibly government-required charges that the government neither mandated nor authorized, as well as charges for services the consumer did not authorize;

WHEREAS, “dropped calls” and service area gaps are not only inconvenient and annoying for wireless consumers, but are potentially life threatening when consumers dial 911 for emergency assistance and encounter inadequate or unavailable wireless service;

WHEREAS, wireless carriers often collect substantial overage and roaming charges from consumers who inadvertently exceed their “anytime” minutes or calling areas – often as the result of wireless carriers’ misleading designations of calling periods and service areas;

WHEREAS, prepaid wireless customers, many of them relatively young, unsophisticated, credit-challenged or otherwise susceptible to sales pressures, are often easily misled by wireless carriers’ advertising and marketing promises;

WHEREAS, consumers deserve convenient and understandable access to a complaint resolution process that is reasonably designed to provide an expeditious and fair resolution at no or little cost;

WHEREAS, wireless carriers do not advertise core information about their calling plans in a standardized format with standard terminology, thus preventing consumers from adequately comparing offers from competing carriers; and

WHEREAS, the wireless industry’s voluntary code of conduct, known as “CTIA’s Consumer Code for Wireless Service,” does not adequately protect consumers because its protections are insufficient, compliance is not mandatory, the consequences for non-compliance are insignificant and lack consumer redress, enforcement lies with the industry’s trade organization (Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, or CTIA), and CTIA members can change or terminate the Code at any time;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates (NASUCA) calls upon state and federal regulatory, enforcement and legislative authorities to adopt and enforce service quality and consumer protection standards for wireless carriers, including but not limited to, requiring the standardized, clear and conspicuous disclosure at the point of sale (retail store, Internet website and telephone sales) of:

  1. All applicable rates and charges, including but not limited to:
    1. Activation fees,
    2. Airtime charges for toll-free and operator-assisted calls,
    3. Monthly access fees,
    4. Charges applicable to excess minutes, together with a clear definition and the number of “anytime,” “night,” and “weekend” minutes,
    5. Long distance charges,
    6. Roaming charges and policies, and
    7. Early termination fees;
  2.  Terms and conditions, including but not limited to:
    1. Equipment return and cancellation policies,
    2. Contract extension policies,
    3. Phone replacement policies,
    4. Customer consent to directory listings and related 411 policies, and
    5. Prepaid minute application policies;
  3. Accurate calling area maps / coverage gaps;
  4. Listings of carriers’ discretionary charges separated from taxes and surcharges mandated or expressly authorized by federal, state or local government; and
  5. Emergency information/services.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the NASUCA Telecommunications and Consumer Protection Committees forward copies of this resolution to the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Consumer Protection Committee and to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) Consumer Affairs Committee and Telecommunications Committee, to encourage their members to pursue and enforce service quality and consumer protection standards for all wireless carriers;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that those service quality and consumer protection standards created in the wireless multistate “Assurance of Voluntary Compliance” agreements executed by Cingular, Sprint PCS and Verizon Wireless (AVCs) shall be used as an example of the minimum standards acceptable to protect consumers; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NASUCA Telecommunications Committee and Consumer Protection Committee, with the approval of the Executive Committee of NASUCA, are authorized to take all steps consistent with this Resolution in order to secure its implementation.

Approved by NASUCA:

Place:  Nashville, Tennessee

Date: November 16, 2004