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Senate To Go After Erring Cell Phone Companies

A senate panel has begun conducting hearings on how some cell phone companies charge their users, and disguise their own charges as taxes on bills.

In a hearing to discuss a bill to end these unfair practices, Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam stonily pleaded for a "light touch" in regulating the cellular telephone industry. "We talk to customers every day. We don't need interference," he told the Senate's Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. "I don't believe that this is necessary regulation."

The bill requires that early termination fees be pro-rated. Companies now sometimes charge $100 to $200 to users who decide to switch to another service, even soldiers who wanted to drop their service because they were being deployed to Iraq. "We believe it's time for simple limits on early termination charges," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat who is sponsoring the bill along with fellow Democratic Sen. John Rockefeller of West Virginia.

The bill would also require cell phone firms to identify as "taxes" only charges that were required by federal, state or other regulation.

Vanessa Arellano Doctor

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