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Relief from annoying telemarketing calls on horizon

FCC issues new rules to safeguard phone customer information

Tired of the number of telemarketing calls you get trying to convince you to change your long distance carrier or make other changes to your phone service? Relief may be in sight with new guidelines issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The guidelines effective May 26 are to be used by all telecommunications carriers to safeguard customer information. “Basically, the new rules require all carriers to obtain their customers’ permission before they can use those customers’ records to market services or products that aren’t covered by existing service relationships,” said Odie Donald, group president of BellSouth customer operations.

“For example, a carrier may not use a customer’s local telephone service records to market long distance or cellular services, unless that customer already subscribes to long distance or cellular service from that carrier.”

Carriers also must get customer approval before using local, wireless or long distance service records to market non-telecommunication services or products, such as voice or fax messaging, Internet access or customer premise equipment.

“Information on your telephone account is valuable and in great demand in the fiercely competitive telecommunications marketplace,” Donald said. “Your BellSouth customer portfolio information, which includes all types of communications services to which you subscribe, as well as your calling and billing records, is confidential and is being protected by BellSouth.”

Donald said BellSouth has always protected customer information through software system controls and employee training. Additional software systems enhancements are planned to ensure continued protection and compliance with the FCC’s new rules.

Donald said customers who allow their portfolios to be used by BellSouth companies will benefit by receiving timely information on innovative services and packages that could include local telephone service, entertainment (wireless or cable television), wireless service, Internet access and more — all of which may be billed on one monthly statement.

BellSouth companies include BellSouth Telecommunications, BellSouth Entertainment, BellSouth Long Distance, BellSouth Mobility, BellSouth Wireless Data, and BellSouth Advertising and Publishing. Customers can grant authorization for BellSouth’s use of their information by voice, in writing or electronically.

Unless requested by customers, the information will not be shared with companies outside of BellSouth. Authorization may be limited to the duration of a single phone call, or granted indefinitely.

BellSouth residential customers will be notified of their customer portfolio rights and options in the June telephone bills.

Donald said that, when appropriate, service representatives will request permission to use customers’ BellSouth records to keep customers up-to-date on new products and services.

BellSouth is a $21-billion communication services company with more than 30 million customers in 20 countries worldwide. There are 23 million access lines in its nine-state territory which includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

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