Should unlisted numbers be a right?

April 1, 2008 7:25:15 PM PDT
Maintaining your privacy comes at a cost -- one that has been growing in recent years in California. Now state lawmakers are questioning whether unlisted phone numbers should be considered a consumer right.

Two years back when land line phones were deregulated in California having an unlisted number cost consumers about a quarter a month -- now that privacy protection costs anywhere from a buck and a quarter for AT&T customers to $1.99 for those served by smaller companies.

That's what today's fight was all about.

Your wireless company offers unlisted phone numbers, that's why you don't get many telemarketing calls and the unlisted feature is free.

In Great Britain anyone can have any phone number unlisted, no charge. They even have a name for it.

"X directory," said Erney Thompson from the United Kingdom.

"What does that mean?" asked ABC7's Michael Finney.

"Your number your name isn't listed in the phone book," said Thompson.

Well if they can do it there and we can do it here for cell phones, why not for your landline.

"I think it is very important in this one area only that we say to the landline company just as we say to cell phone providers you may not charge me for an unlisted number," said State Senator Sheila Kuehl (D) Santa Monica.

The Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee heard testimony on a bill that would require free unlisted numbers.

Here's the debate in a nutshell.

"People should not be forced to pay for their privacy. Privacy is a constitutional right it is not something that should be charged for," said Mark Toney from the Utility Reform Network.

"We can't charge customers for to have a directory listing and we have to provide a free directory listing so this has always been a way to offset that," said Lobbyist from Surewest and Frontier Communications Kelly Boyd.

Privacy won the day with the senators and now the bill continues its journey through the legislative process.

Even if this becomes law, don't look for a reduction in your phone bill for another year at the earliest.

We are keeping track of this and will check in as the process progresses.