State utility regulator Marc Spitzer asks some questions about your cell-phone service on the following page that have fairly predictable answers. And his solution to those answers is equally predictable: Just expand the authority of the Arizona Corporation Commission and all will be well.
Don’t get us wrong. Consumer protection is an important function of government. If you believe you’ve been cheated by a business, and that company refuses to address your complaint, the only recourse may be government. And whether that business is a local department store or your cell-phone company, there already is a state agency that will take your complaint and look into it.
It’s the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. Its consumer information and complaint phone number is (602) 542-5763. Or you can file a complaint online at www.azag.gov/consumer.
Spitzer complains that the Legislature has rejected the Corporation Commission’s request that its regulatory authority be expanded beyond traditional hard-wired phone service to wireless service. But given the level of competition in the phone industry today — competition that continues to grow more intense — even the commission’s authority to regulate hard-wired service needs to be questioned. Many consumers don't even have a hard-wired phone anymore, relying instead on the more convenient cell phone that you carry with you.
Consumers today have so many choices for their phone service that traditional regulation has become outmoded. Most Arizona consumers now can choose between the local phone company, a cable company, and myriad cell phone companies. If you don’t like your current provider, switch. That’s the beauty of a competitive marketplace.
That, of course, doesn’t always satisfy those who feel they’ve been defrauded. That is why the consumer protections offered by the attorney general are valuable.
Instead of expanding the Arizona Corporation Commission’s authority to oversee an industry that was not even envisioned when this agency was created early in the last century, the Legislature should be examining whether the Commission ought to be relieved of its regulatory authority over the telephone industry, which has evolved from a monopoly in need of government oversight to a highly competitive industry that is governed by the marketplace.