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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, Jan. 24, 2008                                                     

CONTACT: Leah Mohr, communications manager, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, (605) 773-3201 

State's telecommunications companies protect consumer information

PIERRE, S.D. – The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission is pleased the telecommunications industry is continuing to address consumer privacy issues with processes that provide greater security for account information.

Telecommunications companies began notifying customers late last year about new rules from the Federal Communications Commission that put greater safeguards on their account information. According to the new policy, representatives of telecommunications companies may discuss account information only with individuals listed on the account. Companies are advising customers that account holder verification, such as a photo ID or answering specific confirmation questions, is necessary before access to account information is allowed.

Customers may update their account information to help work through many of the new barriers created by the additional safeguards. For example, if only one spouse is listed on the account, a couple may wish to have the other spouse added. Another scenario where a change may be beneficial is when a parent or individual relies on someone else to assist with payments and other personal business matters. When a customer has that trusted person added to the account, company customer service representatives will be able to quickly and efficiently handle inquiries and changes.

"South Dakota telecommunications companies are stepping up their efforts to protect their customers' private account information," said PUC Chairman Gary Hanson. "Consumer protection must be a top priority and this extra layer of security will help to ward off pretexting, where unauthorized individuals obtain other persons' private records,'" he said.

"The telecommunications companies are addressing new threats in an appropriate way," commented PUC Vice Chairman Steve Kolbeck. "Though the extra security step may seem like a minor inconvenience to customers, the bottom line is the companies are being diligent in protecting private information."

"Consumer privacy is a big deal to the PUC," said Commissioner Dusty Johnson. "We addressed the issue of pretexting with legislation in 2006 that makes it a crime to falsely obtain, buy or sell confidential telephone records. It's good business on the part of the companies to further ensure they will protect their customers' information," he concluded.

Customers with questions about this change should contact their telecommunications provider for more information.



Contact the manager of your local telecommunications provider to localize this story. Following is additional information about the subject.

  • South Dakota telecommunications companies are implementing new Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI) rules in accordance with the Federal Communications Commission order, to protect the privacy of information contained in customer accounts. The rules went into effect Dec. 8, 2007. 
  • Customers who walk into their telecommunications provider's office to inquire about their account are required to show photo identification. The valid photo ID (driver's license, tribal membership card, passport, etc.) must match a name on the account before any information is released. 
  • When customers call their telecommunications provider's business office, they will be asked some questions to confirm they are the account holder or authorized to discuss or make changes to the account before any information is released. 
  • The new privacy rules are intended to further protect private consumer information from pretexting. Pretexting is an illegal practice where records have been obtained, and in some cases, offered for sale on the Internet.  
  • Fraudulently obtaining CPNI from a telephone company is punishable by fine or imprisonment.