2004-12-24 / Columnists

Notes On Consumer Affairs

By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer

Audrey Pheffer
Audrey Pheffer It is said that you cannot always believe what you read, and with electronic mail (e-mail), this is especially true. A fictitious email that recently received a great deal of public attention propagated the myth of a cellular phone directory.

According to the e-mail, a cellular phone directory exists that will soon allow solicitors access to our cellular phone numbers. Fortunately, this is untrue.

While there may soon be a cellular phone directory, it will be very different from the directory described in the e-mail.

The cellular phone directory will only include the cellular phone numbers of those who specifically request that their phone number be listed in the directory. The list will not be available online, and it will not be sold or distributed to third parties.

The rumor had its genesis in the fact that several cell phone companies are planning to set up a national directory for cellular phones. This directory is intended to operate like a cellular 411 service. Callers, for a fee, would be able to search for a specific person’s phone number.

This service is mainly intended to assist people who use their cellular phone for business purposes. The cellular phone industry’s position is that personal privacy will be protected because the list will not be available online and will not be sold or distributed to third parties. Personal privacy will be further protected since a person must expressly request that their name and number be listed in the directory.

Currently, to protect your privacy, you have the right to add your cellular phone number to the national Do-Not-Call Registry. There are two ways to register your number: by calling 1-888-382-1222 from the number you wish to register, or by logging on to www. do notcall.gov. For TTY, call 1-866-290-4236. You may also register your home phone number in this manner, but business phone numbers may not be registered because business–to-business calls are not covered by the National -Do-Not-Call Registry.

Keep in mind that registering your phone number will not prevent all solicitations.

Charities and telephone surveyors are among those not covered by the National Do-Not-Call Registry.

Many telemarketing calls to cellular phones are prohibited by the Federal Communications Commission under the Federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The Act prohibits the use of automatic telephone dialing systems or an artificial or prerecorded voice directed to any telephone number assigned to a cellular telephone service or any service for which the called party is charged for the call.

Even though privacy protections have been mandated, the possibility of abuse of the proposed directory is real. Federal legislation has been proposed, and Congress has begun debating a bill that would lay out the rules for the cellular 411 directory.

E-mail is a quick and wonderful way to quickly send information, but not all the information received, even if it is from a reliable source, may be true. Such is the case regarding the cellular telephone directory. It is often a good idea to verify information contained in e-mails before acting on that information or forwarding it on to others.

For more information consider visiting www.breakthechain.org, a site that is dedicated to stopping the spread of electronic misinformation, and www. snopes.com, a site that focuses on urban legends and devoted to the study of contemporary lore. To learn more about the national Do-Not-Call Registry, visit www.donotcall.gov.

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