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Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Doitt Commissioner Gino Menchini, And Consumer Affairs Commissioner Gretchen Dykstra Announce Program To Track Cell Phone "dead Spots" Citywide

October 27, 2003

Consumer Affairs to Explore Effectiveness of Cell Phone Industry's Own Best Practices

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, joined by Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) Commissioner Gino Menchini and Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Gretchen Dykstra, today announced a program to collect and map cell phone "dead spots" submitted by New Yorkers who call 311 or visit www.nyc.gov. In addition, the DCA will begin to monitor New York area wireless carriers to determine if they are abiding by newly adopted industry guidelines for consumer services. These guidelines include requiring service providers to fully disclose rates and terms of service to consumers, make service maps available, and allow for a trial period on new purchases. The information submitted by New Yorkers will be made publicly available on www.nyc.gov beginning on November 24th. On that date, new rules adopted by the FCC take affect which mandate that consumers can switch cell phone carriers and transfer their number to the new carrier. The information collected by 311 will help New Yorkers find the wireless carrier that provides the best possible service for their needs.

"Cell phone 'dead spots' are frustrating and too common in this City," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Now, whenever New Yorkers encounter one, they can dial 311 or visit www.nyc.gov to report it. As cell phone use has increased dramatically, it is even more important to identify areas in the City that may be prone to problems. This program will undoubtedly help the industry improve service and help consumers make more informed purchasing decisions."

"This is another example of Mayor Bloomberg's commitment to creating innovative partnerships between the public and private sector to improve the quality of life in the City for New Yorkers," said DoITT Commissioner Gino Menchini. "In certain circumstances, cell phone dead zones create a hazardous condition for New Yorkers. We hope the cell carriers will use this information to improve the quality of their service for the good of their customers and the City."

"New Yorkers should have access to all the information necessary to make good choices and know what they are paying for," said DCA Commissioner Gretchen Dykstra. "Over the next month we will explore the effectiveness of the wireless industry's own best practices to ensure cell phone customers in New York are protected. We look forward to working with industry representatives and consumer advocates."

In September, cell phone carriers announced the adoption of guidelines illustrating the industry's best of practices. The guidelines are as follows:

  • Disclose rates and terms of service to consumers at the point of sale.
  • Make service maps available at the point of sale and on company web sites.
  • Allow for a 14-day trial period for new service.
  • Identify carrier charges from taxes on billing statements.
  • Provide customers the right to terminate service for changes in contract terms.
  • Provide contract terms to customers and confirm changes in service.
  • Provide specific disclosures in advertising.
  • Provide ready access to customer service.
  • Respond promptly to consumer inquires and complaints received from government agencies.
  • Abide by policies for protection of customer privacy.

Since March 9th, 311 has received over 3.16 million calls - currently averaging 20,000 calls a day. 95% of calls to 311 are answered by a Citizen Service Specialist within 5 seconds. The most common types of calls are: noise (NYPD), landlord maintenance or heating (HDP), CFC/Freon removal (DSNY), blocked driveway (NYPD), traffic signal defect (DOT), and open or leaking fire hydrant (DEP). As of October 27th, over 95% of all service requests called into 311 have been closed. In addition, 311 provides translation service in over 170 languages.

To report a cell phone dead spot, dial 311 or visit www.nyc.gov.

Edward Skyler / Jonathan Werbell

(212) 788-2958
Dina Improta
DCA
(212) 487-4283