No answer at the CPUC—or is it a busy signal?

CPUC refuses to change automation

For Immediate Release From The Utility Reform Network

Consumers who are aggravated by the automated menus and busy signals that answer their calls to the phone company received no answers from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) today. In refusing to modernize standards governing the quality of service telephone customers are entitled to, the CPUC left consumers defenseless against the droning of automated telemarketers and incessant busy signals that regularly greet callers to the phone company.

"Perhaps the Commission is too busy granting rate increases to notice the growing frustration over this problem" said TURN’s telecommunications research director Regina Costa. "But surely they’ve noticed that consumers’ use of and reliance on phone service has changed dramatically since the CPUC’s service quality rules were promulgated in 1983."

Today’s decision leaves those outdated rules in place, despite evidence presented by TURN and other consumer advocates that telephone service in California is quickly becoming substandard. The state as a whole is increasingly reliant on phone lines for a variety of personal, business and civic purposes, and is a center for Internet-based industry and commerce. Apparently oblivious to the ever-growing demand for telecommunications services, the Commission inexplicably failed to modernize:

  • Rules that place no limits on the phone company’s discretion to install phone service when it pleases—or delay that installation.
  • Rules that do not provide any standard for how long customers should have to wait for service restoration after an outage.
  • Rules that permit the phone company to respond to your call with a busy signal—and not have to report your call as an unanswered one.
  • Rules that allow the phone company to subject you to numerous advertisements and voice mail menus before you are even permitted to speak to a human being.

"The Commission is blinding itself to the facts," said Costa. "In today’s telecommunications environment, delays in installation can and do mean huge financial losses, and result in a variety of other costs and inconveniences. "It’s the Commission’s job to make sure the state’s telecommunications system is as reliable as possible- and that the services we rely on are not compromised," she added.

"That’s why up-to-date service quality standards are essential." Costa said that in light of the Commission’s failure to provide reasons for sticking its head in the sand, TURN will likely appeal today’s decision.