CFC’s response to Confirmation of Rachelle Chong

Contact: Richard Holober 650-307-7033; Zack Kaldveer 650-375-7846

Statement by Richard Holober, Executive Director

With today’s Senate confirmation, the Consumer Federation of California
(CFC) hopes to set aside our differences with Public Utilities
Commissioner Rachelle Chong.

The Consumer Federation of California
(CFC) opposed Commissioner Chong’s confirmation based on her disregard
for consumer interests during her first year as a Commissioner. We
welcome the opportunity to work with Commissioner Chong in the months
and years to come on behalf of consumers.

Rachelle Chong is an accomplished professional with many years
experience working on utility regulation matters. We hope that through
continued dialogue with consumer and community advocates, Commissioner
Chong will become more attuned to the need for protections against the
recurring abuse of consumers by telecommunications industry giants.

The Public Utilities Commission has embraced total phone industry
deregulation on the theory that free market competition will benefit
consumers, with no negative consequences. We disagree. We encourage
greater competition between the cell phone giants that control the
industry, but competition should be over better products at lower
prices, not by sneaking harmful terms and conditions into the fine
print in phone contracts.

The PUC should set the boundaries within
which the industry can compete, and ripping off consumers through bait
and switch advertising, hidden charges, and excessive early termination
fees that stifle consumer choice must be out of bounds.
CFC salutes Senator Don Perata for his thorough examination and
review of the issues raised by consumer rights organizations concerning
Ms. Chong’s record during the confirmation process.

We are particularly
grateful that Senator Perata extracted a commitment from Ms. Chong and
other members of the PUC to develop and adopt protections for
limited-English speaking cell phone customers.
Commissioner Chong rejected calls in the past by consumer and
community-based organizations to require phone companies who market
their products in languages other than English to provide a contract in
the language used to sell the product.

Limited-English consumers should
have the same opportunity as others to make sure that the contract
reflects the pricing and services that were advertised. CFC believes
this to be a modest proposal for phone companies who lavish tens of
millions on advertising in Spanish, Mandarin and other foreign
languages, and we view this tentative agreement brokered by Senator
Perata as a positive first step.

CFC looks forward to continuing our work on behalf of consumer
rights with the PUC, and holding the agency’s feet to the fire through
our insistence they uphold their true mission: to serve as a guardian
of public, not private corporate interests.