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Nation's Largest Taxpayer Group Applauds FCC Ruling Against "Dumbed-Down" Wireless Bills
For Immediate Release March 10, 2005
(Alexandria, VA) - By ruling today against a petition to restrict the information included in wireless phone bills, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is protecting taxpayer and consumer rights, according to the 350,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU).
"The FCC's decision should put an end to a controversy that has only served as a distraction from the truly urgent issue affecting wireless phone bills: the burden of big government," said NTU Economic Policy Analyst Tad DeHaven. "Hopefully, the filers of this petition will stop pursuing bogus causes and start pushing for reductions in the heavy tax and fee burdens that raise the cost of wireless phone service."
Last week DeHaven sent a letter on behalf of NTU to the FCC, urging Commissioners to deny a petition from the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates, which would prohibit reporting line-item charges on customers' wireless bills "unless such charges have been expressly mandated by a regulatory agency." As DeHaven noted, however, this restriction would have been an invitation for mischief, since "Consumers benefit from transparency, not misguided attempts to 'dumb-down' their bills. ...Besides wreaking havoc on a wireless service provider's ability to offer mutually beneficial package plans, consumers will be left in the dark as to what costs they are ultimately being forced to bear by their elected officials."
In addition, DeHaven observed, the petition was "proposing a solution to a problem that does not exist," since the FCC's own data from the first half of 2004 recorded billing complaints from wireless consumers at a rate of just 22 per million. "If the IRS had such a record we at NTU could probably cut back to a four-day workweek," DeHaven quipped.
For the past several years, NTU has sought more rational government telecommunications policies because of the high stakes for taxpayers and the economy. The group's members have worked for elimination of the three percent federal excise tax on telephones, a permanent ban on discriminatory Internet access taxes, and reductions in so-called "E-911 surcharges" (which can discourage customers from purchasing mobile phone service in the first place).
"With this non-issue out of the way, policymakers can and should focus on removing the barriers at the federal, state, and local levels to a freer market in telecommunications," DeHaven concluded. "For too long the heavy hand of government has stifled the development of technologies that can make our business and personal lives much more productive."
NTU is a non-partisan citizen group founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes and smaller government. For more information on NTU's telecommunications policy work, visit www.ntu.org.