A grass-roots consumer campaign is being waged against passage of a Senate bill that seeks to alter regulations governing telephone and cable television services.
The fear, according to N.J. Citizen Action and other consumer groups, is that S2664 will lead to costlier phone bills and hurt some of the state’s most vulnerable sectors: seniors and lower-income residents.
“This completely wipes out current consumer protections that require telephone and cable companies to provide safe, adequate and proper service, and would eliminate such consumer protections as credits for service outages and correction of billing errors,” said New Jersey Citizen Action Executive Director Phyllis Salowe-Kaye.
In addition, the coalition, which has a Facebook page to spread the word about its efforts, argues that the bill is being rushed to passage before consumers truly understand its consequences, that it removes oversight protections against discrimination in rates, and would allow a company such as Verizon to not provide basic service to some areas of the state.
During a hearing on the bill before the Senate Economic Growth Committee, the director of the Division of Rate Counsel testified against the so-called Market Competition and Consumer Choice Act, saying it actually removes choice from the equation for customers.
DRC Director Stefanie Brand said, “The bill would leave New Jersey’s residents at the mercy of cable and telephone companies with respect to these issues.
“It is a profound shift in consumer protection and it should not be undertaken without careful consideration and input from all interested constituencies.”
Verizon President Dennis Bone testified before the committee in January, however, that after investing $3 billion in the FiOS fiber optic initiative, he said the last thing the company wants to do is scare off customers.
“A lot of the regulation on the books has nothing to do with customer satisfaction,” Bone said.
The bill is awaiting a vote by the full Senate later this month.
The coalition’s web site is