What's the 411 on cell phone ads?

Question

I got an e-mail saying that after January 1st, 2005, telemarketers will have access to a new cell phone directory and will start bombarding us on our cell phones. Is this true and if it is, what can I do about it?

- Francis

Answer

This question was answered on December 8, 2004. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

The Internet has allowed just about anyone to become the ‘town crier’ which can be good or bad.

The majority of the time, it isn’t that great because too many people broadcast ‘warnings’ about subjects that they are really not up to speed on and without ever checking the facts first.

In the case of the growing urban legend about the upcoming cellular 411 directory, here are the facts from the CTIA (Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association):

- Unlike the traditional landline directory, which lists all customers by default, the wireless 411 service will only include consumers who choose to participate (You must Opt-in if you have an existing number)

- Participating wireless carriers AllTel, AT&T Wireless, Cingular, Nextel, Sprint PCS and T-Mobile (Verizon is not participating) will ask their customers if they want their number included If they do, these numbers can be added to the existing directory assistance database There is no charge to be included in the directory

- If a customer chooses not to be included, they will not have to do anything The wireless 411 database will only include the numbers of customers that choose to be added to the list All other numbers are automatically excluded The only way a number will be listed is if the customer specifically asks that it be made available.

- There will be no published directory The list of numbers will be stored in a secure database maintained by database vendor Q-Sent and only available by calling 411

- Unlike the current landline directory system, all of the national wireless carriers have indicated they will not charge customers who elect to remain unlisted.

In addition, there are other privacy controls that are already in place to ensure that telemarketers don’t invade your cell phone minutes.

The most prominent is the National Do Not Call Registry (www.donotcall.gov or 1-888-382-1222) which has always allowed for cell phone numbers to be added.

Telemarketing violators of the Do Not Call Registry are subject to an $11,000 fine per call That should be enough of an incentive for a telemarketer to avoid calling your cell phone if you've listed it in the Do Not Call registry.

The fact that the cellular 411 directory is not going to be available in any form other than by calling to get a single number makes it pretty inefficient for telemarketers to make much use of anyway.

The intent of the 411 directory is to make it easy for your family and friends to get your cell number, but only if you want them to be able to…

Whether you intend to make your number a part of the national cellular 411 directory or not, I would recommend everyone add their cell number to the National Do Not Call Registry if they haven’t already!

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on December 8, 2004