ASSEMBLY, No. 643

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

214th LEGISLATURE

 

PRE-FILED FOR INTRODUCTION IN THE 2010 SESSION

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblyman  PAUL D. MORIARTY

District 4 (Camden and Gloucester)

Assemblywoman  ELEASE EVANS

District 35 (Bergen and Passaic)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Wireless Telephone Consumer Protection Act; establishes certain consumer protections for wireless telephone subscribers.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     Introduced Pending Technical Review by Legislative Counsel

  


An Act concerning wireless telephone service providers, designating the act as “Wireless Telephone Consumer Protection Act,” and supplementing Title 48 of the Revised Statutes.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.  As used in this act:

     "Act" means the "Wireless Telephone Consumer Protection Act."

     "Board" means the Board of Public Utilities.

     "Internet" means the international computer network of both federal and non-federal interoperable packet switched data networks.

     "Wireless telephone service" means commercial mobile radio service, as defined in 47 U.S.C.s.332(d).

     "Wireless telephone service provider" or "provider" means any entity that provides wireless telephone service within this State.

     "Wireless telephone number information" means the telephone number, electronic address and any other identifying information by which a calling party may reach a subscriber to commercial mobile services, and which is assigned by a wireless telephone service provider to such subscriber.

 

     2.  a. Within 180 days following the effective date of this act,  the board shall adopt rules and regulations pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.) requiring that any publication, including publication on the Internet, of a wireless telephone service provider concerning the terms of its plans or contracts for wireless telephone service shall set forth, in a plain and conspicuous manner, the following information:

     (1)  Information on charges, including the originating location of the call, monthly base charge, per-minute charges for minutes not included in the plan, and the method of calculating minutes charged;

     (2)  Information on the minutes included in the plan, including allowable minutes during daytime on weekdays, allowable minutes during nights and weekends, or any other differing charges for long-distance, roaming, incoming and directory assistance;

     (3)  Information on plan or contract terms, including length of contract, early or other termination fees, trial periods, and start-up fees;

     (4)  Information on taxes to be collected by the provider for, and paid to, a State, local, or other governmental agency;

     (5)  Information on surcharges imposed by the provider for the costs of compliance with regulations or for other purposes; and

     (6)  Any other information that the board considers appropriate to ensure that consumers of wireless telephone service are fully informed of the terms of the plan or contract.

     b. Wireless telephone service providers shall provide the information required by this section to a consumer prior to entering into any contract with a consumer for wireless telephone service.

     c.  The board shall adopt rules and regulations directing providers to publish the information required by this section in a tabular format, in a clear and uniform manner, and in at least 10 point font.  This format shall be designed to ensure that consumers may accurately compare the true cost of services among providers.

     d.  Wireless telephone service providers shall meet the disclosure requirements in this section in advertising to the extent allowed by the advertising medium.

 

     3.  a.  Each wireless telephone service provider shall make available maps showing the wireless telephone service area of such provider and the wireless telephone service area of such provider within this State.  Such maps shall contain the maximum practicable level of granularity and shall be updated quarterly.

     b.  Each map of a service area required under subsection a. of this section shall be provided to a consumer:

     (1) upon the request of the consumer; and

     (2) whenever a plan or contract for the service is entered into.

     c.  Each map of a service area required under subsection a. of this section shall be available:

     (1) on the Internet website of the provider concerned; and

     (2) on the Internet website of the board.

 

     4.  a.  The board shall monitor the quality of wireless telephone service providers based on the following standards:

     (1) dropped calls;

     (2) blocked calls;

     (3) known coverage gaps (including average signal strength) or dead zones;

     (4) predicted street level signal strength; and

     (5) any other matters the board considers appropriate.

     b.  In monitoring the quality of wireless telephone service under subsection a. of this section, the board shall establish an Internet website which allows  members of the public to submit their comments and views to the board on the quality of such service. The board shall also accept written complaints by mail.

     c.  The board shall make information available to wireless telephone service providers and the public on a semiannual basis concerning the quality of wireless telephone service provided in this State.

 

     5.  a.  An extension of a contract for wireless telephone service shall not be valid unless the extension of the contract is in writing and is signed by the subscriber, or confirmed in writing and signed by the subscriber within seven days of receipt by the subscriber.

     b. A wireless telephone service provider shall provide subscribers with written notice of any change in rates, terms, or conditions of service at least 30 days before the change is to take effect.  If any such change will result in higher rates or more restrictions on service or otherwise will result in a material, adverse change for such subscriber, the subscriber may, within such 30-day period, terminate the service without penalty and receive a pro rata refund of the charges, if any, paid for the handset used for the service.  The notice of change shall inform the subscriber of the right to terminate the contract, the right to a handset refund, and the steps to take to implement such a termination.

     c.  A contract for wireless service may be canceled upon the request of the subscriber for any reason during the first 30 days.  There shall be no penalty or other costs to the subscriber for any cancellation during these 30 days, except that the subscriber shall be responsible for the cost of the service used during the time period that the contract was in effect.

 

     6.  a.  A wireless telephone service provider shall provide bills for wireless telephone services that are clearly organized and clearly describe in plain language the products and services for which charges are imposed, and that conform to format standards established by the board.

     b.  Taxes and fees which are required by federal, State, or local statute or regulation to be collected from the subscriber shall be set forth in a separate section of the bill and shall be itemized separately.  This section of the bill shall only contain charges that the provider is required to be recover from subscribers pursuant to federal, State or local statute or regulation.

     c.  Roaming or off-network charges shall be itemized on the subscriber's bill within 60 days of the call being placed, and such roaming or off-network charges shall identify the date and originating location of the call.

     d.  Upon the request of a subscriber, a wireless telephone service provider shall provide an itemized bill to the subscriber at no cost to the subscriber.

     e.  Charges associated with the use of wireless telephone equipment or services shall not be the liability of the subscriber if such use was unauthorized by the subscriber due to loss or theft, provided that such loss or theft is promptly reported to the wireless telephone service provider.

     f.  The board shall adopt rules and regulations pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.) implementing this section and establishing such procedures as may be necessary to allow subscribers to file complaints with the board with regard to billing disputes between wireless telephone service providers and subscribers.

     g.  A wireless telephone service provider shall refrain from terminating a subscriber's service for nonpayment so long as the subscriber's billing complaint is pending before the board and for 15 days thereafter, or for such period as the board for good cause shall establish, provided that as a condition of continued service during the pendency of any such dispute, the subscriber shall pay the undisputed portions of any bill for service and any amounts the board determines are necessary to fairly compensate the wireless telephone provider for services rendered while the complaint is pending and 15 days thereafter.

 

     7.  a.  A wireless telephone service provider, or any direct or indirect affiliate or agent of a provider, providing the name and wireless telephone number information of a subscriber for inclusion in any directory of any form, or selling, leasing, licensing or sharing the contents of any directory database, or any portion or segment thereof, shall not include the wireless telephone number information of any subscriber without first obtaining the express consent of that subscriber.  The provider's form for obtaining the subscriber's express consent shall meet all of the following requirements:

     (1) it shall be a separate document that is not attached to any other document;

     (2) it shall be signed and dated by the subscriber;

     (3) it shall be unambiguous and legible, and shall conspicuously disclose that, by signing the form, the subscriber consents to having the subscriber's wireless telephone number information sold or licensed as part of a list of subscribers and having the subscriber's wireless telephone number information included in a publicly available directory; and

     (4) if under the subscriber's calling plan the subscriber may be billed for receiving unsolicited calls or text messaging from a telemarketer, the provider's form shall be unambiguous and legible, and shall conspicuously disclose that, by consenting to have the subscriber's wireless telephone number information sold or licensed as part of a list of subscribers or to be included in a publicly available directory, the subscriber may incur additional charges for receiving unsolicited calls or text messages.

     b.  A subscriber who provides express prior consent pursuant to subsection a. of this section may revoke that consent at any time.  A wireless telephone service provider shall comply with the subscriber's request to opt out within a reasonable period of time, not to exceed 60 days.

     c.  A subscriber shall not be charged for making the choice not to be listed in a directory.

     d.  This section shall not apply to the provision of wireless telephone number information to the following parties for the purposes indicated:

     (1) to a collection agency, to the extent disclosures made by the provider are exclusively for the collection of the subscriber's unpaid debt to the provider;

     (2) to any law enforcement agency, fire protection agency, public health agency, public environmental health agency, city or county emergency services planning agency, or private for-profit agency operating under contract with, and at the direction of, one or more of these agencies, for the exclusive purpose of responding to a 911 call or communicating an imminent threat to life or property;

     (3) to a lawful process issued under State or federal law;

     (4) to a telephone company providing service between service areas for the provision to the subscriber of telephone service between service areas, or to third parties for the limited purpose of providing billing services;

     (5) to a telephone company to effectuate a subscriber's request to transfer the customer's assigned telephone number from the customer's existing provider of telecommunications services to a new provider of telecommunications services; and

     (6) to the board pursuant to its jurisdiction and control over wireless telephone providers.

     e.  No provider, nor any official or employee thereof, shall be subject to criminal or civil liability for the release of subscriber information as authorized by this section.

 

     8.  a.  The board shall have the power and authority to enforce the provisions of this act.  The board shall have the power, consistent with federal law, to assess a penalty not to exceed $1,000 against any provider that neglects or knowingly fails to comply with any requirement of this act.

     b.  Failure to comply with any provision of this act or any regulation promulgated in accordance with this act shall constitute an unlawful practice under P.L.1960, c.39 (C.56:8-1 et seq.).

 

     9.  The provisions of this act are severable. If any phrase, clause, sentence, provision or section is declared to be invalid or preempted by federal law or regulation, the validity of the remainder of this act shall not be affected thereby.

 

     10.  This act shall take effect immediately.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill requires wireless telephone providers to fully disclose the following information to its subscribers:

     (1) the terms and conditions of its contracts for wireless telephone service including information on allowable minutes during differing times of the day and week, the method used to calculate minutes charged and any charges for long-distance, roaming, incoming and directory assistance calls;

     (2) the length of wireless telephone service contracts, any early termination or other termination fees, trial periods, and start-up fees and  information on taxes to be collected by the provider for, and paid to, a State, local, or other governmental agency; and

     (3) information on surcharges imposed by the provider for the costs of compliance with regulations or for other purposes, and any other information that the board considers appropriate to ensure that consumers of wireless telephone service are fully informed of the terms of the plan or contract.

     In addition, the bill also establishes other consumer protection rights for subscribers of wireless telephone service including:

     (1) making service coverage area maps available to consumers on the provider's Internet web site and on the board's Internet website;

     (2) requiring the board to monitor the quality of wireless telephone service providers based on various standards and to receive input from the public on the quality of such service;

     (3) requiring the board to make information available to wireless telephone service providers and the public on a semiannual basis concerning the quality of wireless telephone service provided in this State;

     (4) requiring any extension of a contract for wireless telephone service to be in writing and to be signed by the subscriber, or confirmed in writing and signed by the subscriber within seven days of receipt by the subscriber; and

     (5) requiring a wireless telephone service provider to  give written notice of any change in rates, terms, or conditions of service at least 30 days before the change is to take effect.

     The bill also requires that any taxes or fees mandated by federal, State, or local law or regulation to be collected from the subscriber shall be set forth in a separate section of the bill and shall be itemized separately, that all roaming or off-network charges shall be itemized on the subscriber's bill within 60 days of the call being placed, and such roaming or off-network charges shall identify the date and originating location of the call.

     The bill further provides that, upon the request of a subscriber, a wireless telephone service provider shall provide an itemized bill to the subscriber at no cost to the subscriber, and that any charges associated with the use of wireless telephone equipment or services shall not be the liability of the subscriber if such use was unauthorized by the subscriber due to loss or theft, provided that such loss or theft is promptly reported to the wireless telephone service provider.

     The bill also requires the board to adopt rules and regulations implementing the purposes of the bill and to establish such procedures as may be necessary to allow subscribers to file complaints with the board concerning billing disputes between wireless telephone service providers and subscribers. The bill also prohibits providers from terminating a subscriber's wireless telephone service for nonpayment so long as the bill remains in dispute.

     In addition, the bill prohibits any agent of a provider from providing the name and wireless telephone number information of a subscriber for inclusion in any directory of any form, or selling, leasing, licensing or sharing the contents of any directory database, or any portion or segment thereof, without first obtaining the express consent of that subscriber.  The provider's form for obtaining the subscriber's express consent shall meet all of the following requirements:

     (1) it shall be a separate document that is not attached to any other document;

     (2) it shall be signed and dated by the subscriber;

     (3) it shall be unambiguous and legible, and shall conspicuously disclose that, by signing the form, the subscriber consents to having the subscriber's wireless telephone number information sold or licensed as part of a list of subscribers and having the subscriber's wireless telephone number information included in a publicly available directory; and

     (4) if under the subscriber's calling plan the subscriber may be billed for receiving unsolicited calls or text messaging from a telemarketer, the provider's form shall be unambiguous and legible, and shall conspicuously disclose that, by consenting to have the subscriber's wireless telephone number information sold or licensed as part of a list of subscribers or to be included in a publicly available directory, the subscriber may incur additional charges for receiving unsolicited calls or text messages.

     The bill allows a subscriber who provides express prior consent to release wireless telephone information to a third party to revoke that consent at any time.  A wireless telephone service provider shall comply with the subscriber's request to "opt out" within a reasonable period of time, not to exceed 60 days.

     The bill also prohibits the charging of a subscriber who chooses  not to be listed in a directory.  The disclosure requirements of the bill do not apply for the purposes of:

     (1) a collection agency, to the extent disclosures made by the provider are exclusively for the collection of the subscriber's unpaid debt to the provider;

     (2) any law enforcement agency, fire protection agency, public

health agency, public environmental health agency, city or county emergency services planning agency, or private for-profit agency operating under contract with, and at the direction of, one or more of these agencies, for the exclusive purpose of responding to a 9-1-1 call or communicating an imminent threat to life or property;

     (3) a lawful process issued under State or federal law; a telephone company providing service between service areas for the provision to the subscriber of telephone service between service areas, or to third parties for the limited purpose of providing billing services;

     (4) any telephone company to effectuate a subscriber's request to transfer the customer's assigned telephone number from the customer's existing provider of telecommunications services to a new provider of telecommunications services; and

     (5) to the board pursuant to its jurisdiction and control over wireless telephone providers.

     The bill also provides that no provider, nor any official or employee thereof, shall be subject to criminal or civil liability for the release of subscriber information as authorized by the bill.

     The bill gives the board the power and authority to enforce the bill's provisions including the power, consistent with federal law, to assess a penalty not to exceed $1,000 against any provider that neglects or knowingly fails to comply with any requirement of the bill.  The bill further provides that failure to comply with any provision of this bill or any regulation adopted in accordance with the provisions of this bill shall constitute an unlawful practice under the State's consumer protection law, P.L.1960, c.39 (C.56:8-1 et seq.).