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Wireless Telephone Directories a Wrong Number for Consumers

A plan by a group of wireless service providers to compile a national database of wireless phone numbers is a wrong number according to a new study from AARP's Public Policy Institute. Furthermore, unwanted cell phone calls are not only a nuisance, but cost consumers money.

The study, which surveyed cell phone users ages 18 and older found cell phone owners highly value the privacy of their wireless telephone numbers; a majority of respondents indicated that they would not want to be included in a newly created wireless phone directory.

"Cell phone subscribers have many incentives to keep their numbers private," said David Certner, Director of Federal Affairs with AARP. "Wireless service providers, unlike their landline counterparts, charge for incoming as well as outgoing calls." He added, "The privacy of wireless subscribers has always been safeguarded. Many cell phone users expect to receive calls only from those individuals to whom they have personally given their number."

Certner added, "This survey underscores the need for legislation (S1963/HR3558), introduced by Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) in the U.S. Senate, and Representatives Joseph Pitts (R-PA) and Edward Markey (D-MA) in the House. AARP supports these bills, which would ensure that consumers have a choice as to whether or not their cell phone number is included in a wireless directory – and provide protection against being charged for keeping it out."

The idea of a wireless phone directory is troubling to all consumers, but especially older consumers. Only five percent of cell phone users age 65+ said they would want their number to be included in a wireless phone directory. Among all cell phone users, nine out of ten said they value phone number privacy and view the lack of a directory as a good thing.

Lou Pare, 71 of Holderness, New Hampshire has been using his cell phone since 1995. "I consider my cell phone number personal. I don't like the idea that it might become available to people I don't know or that I wouldn't want to have it. I'm concerned also that they might charge me a fee to keep my privacy. On top of that, I end up paying for the calls I get whether I want them or not – they eat up the minutes on my plan."

"Consumers today rely on their wireless telephones as a vital means of communication," said Sen. Specter. "Wireless telephones enable families to stay connected, permit commerce to be conducted anywhere at any time, and provide a vital link in the event of an emergency. The legislation enables those consumers who want to be reached to be accessible, while providing privacy protections that are important to consumers."

Sen. Boxer added, "I thank the AARP for their support of this bipartisan legislation. I value the privacy of my wireless number. Wireless numbers should not be made available without the consent of the consumer."

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to making life better for people 50 and over. We provide information and resources; engage in legislative, regulatory and legal advocacy; assist members in serving their communities; and offer a wide range of unique benefits, special products, and services for our members. These include AARP The Magazine, published bimonthly; AARP Bulletin, our monthly newspaper; AARP Segunda Juventud, our quarterly publication for Hispanic members; NRTA Live & Learn for National Retired Teachers Association members; and our Web site, www.aarp.org. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The AARP Public Policy Institute (PPI) is the focal point for public policy research and analysis at AARP. Its mission is to inform the development of AARP's public policy positions and to contribute to and influence public debate on issues of importance to mid-life and older persons.

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