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Telecom Rules Are Proposed

May 14, 2004|James S. Granelli | Times Staff Writer

The 4-year-old effort to protect Californians against questionable practices by telephone companies took a jarring turn Thursday as two state regulators filed alternatives to a proposal for a telecom consumer bill of rights.

California Public Utilities Commission members Susan P. Kennedy and Geoffrey F. Brown filed alternatives that would cost the wireless industry less than the original proposal by Commissioner Carl W. Wood.

Wood, who has modified his bill of rights several times to attract a 3-2 majority, has the issue set for a vote May 27. But Brown, who had worked with him on the final version, recently bolted and decided to back several major changes.

Kennedy, who questions the need for such rules, said in a statement that her proposal would "empower consumers to protect themselves" while minimizing the financial burden on wireless firms and avoiding job losses and higher wireless phone bills.

But one staff aide suggested her plans would do little more than the wireless industry already does voluntarily, such as giving consumers 14 days to try out new wireless phone service. Wood and Brown would provide a 30-day trial period.

Kennedy and Brown's proposals lack a provision of Wood's that would bar companies from sharing a consumer's personal information with affiliates unless the customer authorizes it.

Brown, however, would set up a review to determine whether a different privacy provision could be fashioned.

Kennedy and Brown also would do without Wood's provision to govern telecom advertising on such public venues as radio, television and billboards. Brown would focus mainly on offers actually made to consumers.

Kennedy's plan, who contends that Wood's version would end up "micromanaging" the industry, also excludes detailed disclosure requirements sought by Wood.

Wood could not be reached for comment.

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