Pacific Bell is backing down from a plan to telemarket its services to customers with unpublished phone numbers.
The phone company filed a request with the California Public Utilities Commission on April 7 for permission to tap its database of unlisted customers. Pacific Bell specifically hoped to sell privacy-related services such as Caller ID and call screening, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. But the company changed its mind after protests from various consumer groups.
“People get unlisted telephone numbers at least partly because they don’t want to receive telemarketing calls,” says Regina Costa, the telecommunications research director for TURN, the San Francisco-based consumer group that was one of the main protesters. “Generally these people are pretty careful about their phone numbers.” Over 50% of Californians have unlisted phone numbers, she adds.
Costa says she believes Pacific Bell changed its plan when state Sen. Steve Peace, D-Chula Vista, threatened to introduce legislation blocking the request.
Pacific Bell marketed to unlisted customers until 1989 and then voluntarily stopped the practice, the Chronicle reported. Costa says Pacific Bell’s new owners, Texas-based Southwestern Bell, decided to restart the practice. “They have to learn that California is different,” she explains.