NEW YORK, NY and BEDMINSTER, NJ — In a keynote presentation today at The Yankee Group's Wireless Leadership Summit in New York, Denny Strigl, president and chief executive officer of Verizon Wireless, took a strong stance on several issues impacting wireless consumers and the industry, including a proposed wireless directory and the bandwagon trend of regulations and state and local taxes on wireless consumer bills.
Strigl reiterated Verizon Wireless' position against a wireless directory, citing preservation of wireless customers' privacy, and control over their bills and unwanted calls. According to Strigl, customers view cell phones as one place they don't face intrusions from telemarketers and other unwanted, unsolicited calls and messages.
"As an industry, we should be proud of our strong record to date to proactively preserve customers' privacy in an intrusive world," Strigl said. "Our industry has surrounded customers' information with a wall of privacy. Why would we want to tear down that wall that unique advantage we provide that we have spent two decades fortifying?"
Strigl also addressed proponents of an opt-in directory, stating, "We're only kidding ourselves if we think the 'opt-in' approach is a solution. Customers see opt-in as a disingenuous foot-in-the door leading to 'opt-out' clauses and fees for not publishing a number. Nor does opt-in allow customers any degree of control over how and to whom their information is revealed they either keep full privacy or face full exposure, with nothing in-between."
He said Verizon Wireless has not and will not publish or make available customers' wireless phone numbers for a directory. He also said the company is amending its customer contracts to proactively state that Verizon Wireless does not provide customers' phone numbers for listing in directories.
"Let's as an industry stop pushing something on customers that they clearly don't want. It's a dumb idea," Strigl concluded.
Strigl followed up his comments on customer privacy by taking aim at state mandates that second-guess consumers' choice by imposing rules on a vibrantly competitive industry.
He pointed to local number portability (LNP) which took effect November 24 and was the central topic of his speech at The Yankee Group's Wireless Leadership Summit in 2003 as the ultimate form of consumer protection. "If a customer is unhappy, they can take their phone number and their wallet and go elsewhere."
"To state regulators who will unnecessarily saddle competitive national businesses with micro-management regulations, I say: differentiation not regulation will drive customer choice. All this talk about regulating and monitoring service quality assumes consumers all want the same thing. They don't they want choice."
"Don't require us to 'dumb down' our customer service or network quality or other differentiators by requiring all carriers to be the same. Let's see how LNP and a vibrantly competitive market work for the consumer, rather than heap on additional regulations."
On the growing trend of state and local taxes on wireless consumers, Strigl said cell phones have gone from a convenience for the elite to a mainstream life-enhancer as the wireless industry has brought down prices dramatically. Now, arbitrary and discriminatory state and local taxes are bringing the price up dramatically.
"Using wireless service as a convenient billing mechanism for states to generate tax dollars is clearly not in the consumer's interest," Strigl said.
The full transcript of Denny Strigl's speech is available online at http://www.verizonwireless.com/news/pdf/YankeeGroupStrigl.pdf.
About Verizon Wireless
Verizon Wireless is the nation's leading provider of wireless communications. The company has the largest nationwide wireless voice and data network and 40 million customers. Headquartered in Bedminster, NJ, Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) and Vodafone (NYSE and LSE: VOD). Find more information on the Web at www.verizonwireless.com. To receive broadcast-quality video footage of Verizon Wireless operations, log onto www.thenewsmarket.com/verizonwireless.