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Consumer group wants carriers to end regulatory-related surcharges

WASHINGTON-A leading consumer group asked the Federal Communications Commission to ban mobile-phone and long-distance carriers from hitting consumers with regulatory-related surcharges not mandated by any regulatory agency or law.

“The most outrageous aspect of these surcharges is that they hide the true cost of the telecommunications service from customers,” said David Bergmann of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel and chairman of the telecom committee at the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates.

NASUCA, arguing a national remedy is needed because some states do not regulate wireless carriers, said any carrier-imposed surcharges should be included as part of a service providers per-minute or standard monthly fee to enable consumers to compare prices among telecom competitors.

Patrick Pearlmann, a consumer advocate at the West Virginia Public Service Commission, criticized the cellular industry’s voluntary code of conduct as ineffective.

NASUCA officials also said the FCC for not doing enough to fight regulatory fees they characterized as deceptive and misleading.

The FCC did not respond to calls for comment.

“The wireless industry works hard to provide consumers with as much information about their individual bills as possible,” said Travis Larson, a spokesman for the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association. “By breaking these costs out and clearly labeling them, consumers know exactly where their wireless dollars are being spent. It’s ironic that a consumer organization is requesting we hide this information from customers by burying it in the overall cost of service.”

Wireless carriers are caught up in scores of billing lawsuits around the country, many taking issue with regulatory recovery fees.

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