STATE – The 60 Plus Association, which touts itself as the conservative alternative to the AARP, has come out in support of state Sen. Raymond Lesniak’s legislation to deregulate New Jersey’s landline phone market.
The organization, derided by critics as a GOP front group, previously supported efforts to privatize Medicare by turning it into a voucher program and opposed President Barack Obama’s efforts towards health care reform.
On Monday, the state Senate is scheduled to vote on S-2664, “the Market Competition and Consumer Choice Act” which would free communications companies of regulatory burdens.
AARP New Jersey President Sy Larson opposes the bill, warning that it could lead to higher telephone rates and reduced consumer protections. “We already know from our recent state survey that two-thirds of older New Jerseyans experience difficulty paying their household utilities,” he said. “Senate bill 2664 could hurt consumers… by increasing your rates and compromising service quality.”
A report released this week by Demos and New Jersey Policy Perspective, notes that 17 out of 20 states had phone rate increases between 8 percent per year to 100 percent per year after deregulation. An increase similar to the 50 percent hike in California would mean an extra $100 per year for New Jersey basic phone service customers, the report says.
Current state regulations cap basic phone service at $16.45 per month, or $197 per year.
Citing testimony by Stephanie Brand, director of New Jersey’s Division of Rate Counsel, the report warns that consumers could also lose key protections under the deregulation bill, including the rights to have billing errors corrected, receive credit for service outages, and be protected from “slamming” (changing a customer’s phone service without their consent.)
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