Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T Wireless and other wireless mega-firms are lobbying against newly proposed legislation that would protect victims of domestic violence by allowing them to remove themselves from family phone plans. The firms want to protect themselves from possible future liability and enforcement in the event that they do not adequately comply with newly proposed legislation, reports The Guardian.
Advocates say the Safe Connections Act would help prevent abusers from surveilling and stalking their victims after leaving the relationship, a major issue that can give abusers, the vast majority of whom are men, a dangerous level of access to a victim’s network of support, from friends to family to their workplace.
Despite this, sources say that the CTIA, a Washington-based lobby group that calls itself the “voice of America’s wireless industry” has been lobbying behind the scenes for a change in language in the proposed legislation that would protect the companies from lawsuits and enforcement by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by making the law voluntary, a move that would make it impossible for regulators to enforce the law or for the companies to be held accountable in civil litigation if they failed to comply.
If passed into law, the proposal would allow survivors to exit a shared family phone plan within 48 hours of making the request. Any children in the care of the survivor would also be removed from the contract. The law would allow mobile phone customers to end their relationship with their provider while keeping their phone numbers, even if the account is in arrears.
The phone companies would be mandated to comply with a victim’s request within 48 hours and – under the current language in the proposal – would be liable if they did not comply. If the proposal passed, the companies would have to put policies in place to handle such requests, verify them and act.
Under the proposed federal legislation, victims would either have to describe their situation in an affidavit or provide police documents as evidence, a less burdensome process then what currently exists in some states which require victims to provide documents such as a court order or police report to make their claim or have them pay fees or other charges for exiting the plan.
As of August, at least one company charged up to $350 per line to leave the contract, according to a letter sent that month to Congress from anti-domestic violence, civil liberties, and consumer privacy organizations.