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Consumer groups support ending cell phone surcharges

Two consumer groups back a new bill aimed at cutting fees charged to cell phone customers.

Two top consumer groups are backing legislation aimed at giving consumers more freedom over their cell phone contracts. The Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America announced their support yesterday for the Cell Phone Consumer Empowerment Act of 2007 (aka the Cell Phone Bill of Rights), which is sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.).

Though the bill centers on limiting early termination fees for cell phone contracts, the consumer groups are focusing on another provision that would prohibit any customer fees not expressly authorized by federal, state, or local governments. "Most wireless carriers advertise a (monthly contract) price significantly lower than the bill customers pay each month, adding mysterious regulatory charges and other junk fees," said Consumers Union Senior Counsel Chris Murray in a statement. "If this legislation is passed, it would go a long way toward eliminating those shenanigans."

Cell phone customers pay an average of $10 in taxes and fees each month on top of the normal rate. Though most of the current fees are already authorized by the government, customers can accrue other charges like a carrier administrative fee.

Of course, the wireless industry is not accepting the bill with open arms. The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association said the legislation isn't needed at a time when cell phone complaints to the FCC are falling.