|S.F. No. 833 - Minnesota Wireless Telephone Consumer Protection Act (third engrossment)|
|Author:||Senator Mary Olson|
|Prepared by:||John C. Fuller, Senate Counsel (651/296-3914)|
|Date:||March 25, 2008|
S.F. No. 833 is a bill that offers protection to consumers in their dealings with commercial mobile radio service providers (hereinafter "wireless" providers). Federal law addressing state jurisdiction over wireless providers states:
"No state or local government shall have any authority to regulate the entry of or the rates charged by any commercial mobile service or any private mobile service, except this paragraph shall not prohibit a state from regulating the other terms and conditions of commercial mobile services." (47 U.S.C., section 332(c)(3)(A))
A 2004 Minnesota law (Laws 2004, chapter 261, article 7, section 1) that provided consumer protection to wireless customers was held preempted by the above federal law because the federal court found that it had an impermissible impact on rates, since a provision of the law could have operated to delay rate changes for a period of time.
The congressional legislative history includes comments that a state could enact consumer protection laws that applied to wireless providers. The question of whether a state is preempted depends on whether the state is regulating market entry or rates or whether it is regulating other terms and conditions in a manner authorized by federal law. The limits of state authority have not been clearly defined so there is uncertainty as to the extent of state authority to regulate wireless providers.
Section 1, subdivision 1, provides a series of definitions and defines a "wireless carrier" as a provider of wireless telecommunication services as defined under federal regulations.
Subdivision 2, paragraph (a), requires a wireless carrier to:
(1) provide a coverage map to customers at the time of sale;
(2) make coverage maps available where wireless services are offered for sale and on the Web;
(3) make price and fee disclosures at the time of sale;
(4) clearly disclose in writing to the customer at the time of sale whether a price is guaranteed for the term of the contract and any early termination fees; and
(5) provide to the customer the terms of a contract prior to its execution and after execution provide a copy of a written contract.
These requirements do not apply to customers purchasing prepaid per minute service not requiring a minimum term.
Subdivision 2, paragraph (b), requires the wireless carrier to obtain written acknowledgment from a customer that the price guarantee and early termination fee disclosures have been made.
Subdivision 3 requires a wireless carrier to separately list government taxes and fees on a bill and not to misrepresent charges as government fees and taxes.
Subdivision 4 regulates a wireless carrier's inclusion on a customer's bill of charges for goods or services provided by a third-party. The customer must give prior express authorization for the inclusion of third-party charges and the nature of the consent is specified. A third-party charge must be removed from a bill if the customer disputes the charge and the carrier or third-party cannot provide required evidence of prior authorization.
Subdivision 5 requires a wireless carrier to inform a customer if a promotion, purchase of a good or service, or change in a service plan will extend the term of a wireless contract and the term of the extension. If a contract is extended, the carrier is required to provide a statement to a customer of some of the terms of the extension. Failure of a carrier to make any of the required disclosures voids a contract extension.
Subdivision 6 provides that the bill does not create a private right of action or create a liability in addition to any created by the bill.
Subdivision 7 places a six-month statute of limitations on actions brought under section 1.
Subdivision 8 provides that a violation of this section triggers an array of remedies available under section 8.31.
Section 2 repeals the prior law found preempted by the federal courts and which has already sunset under the terms of the law.
Section 3 provides for an effective date of August 1, 2008, except it delays the effective date for third-party billing regulation until March 1, 2009.
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