Providing protection for cell phone owners

State Sen. Chuck Wiger
District 43

Following a rash of assaults on the University of Minnesota campus and the nation-wide increase in stolen cell phones and other portable devices, the Senate set out this session to find legislation that would offer cell phone owners some new protections. After working with college students, law enforcement and college campus leaders, two bills emerged as possible answers.

The first bill focused on the cell phones themselves. The legislation, often referred to as the “kill switch bill,” will require any new smart phones sold in Minnesota that were manufactured after July 2015 to be preloaded with anti-theft functionality or the capability of downloading anti-theft software at no cost to the purchaser. This plan would deter would-be thieves from taking a phone by allowing the owner to shut the phone down and rendering the device useless.

The second bill also removes the incentive of stealing a phone by prohibiting device dealers from using cash to purchase used electronic devices. Under the new language, a retailer would pay for the device through a mailed check, electronic transfer or store credit.

The Senate successfully passed the two bills (combined) with bipartisan support. The House of Representatives is currently working on similar legislation and I am hopeful that we can provide these new protections before the 2014 Legislative Session is over.

If you are looking to buy a new cell phone or change providers, the Minnesota Office of the Attorney General offers some advice. Visit Attorney General Lori Swanson’s website at www.ag.state.mn.us and check out the “Wireless Phones” brochure. The brochure helps answer a number of questions like:

• Why do I want wireless phone service?

• What are the other terms of my wireless plan?

• What charges can I expect to see on my first bill?

• What is the termination fee if I cancel my service early?

• Is there a “free trial period”?

• Should I buy a phone for my child?

Cell phones have become an everyday part of life that most people cannot live without. We use them for games, texting, reading the news, shopping, banking and even the occasional phone call. With the amount of personal information these devices hold, make sure you keep them safe and keep them locked.

As always, contact me with questions or suggestions regarding any issue. I encourage you to visit me at the Capitol, or let me know if you’d like me to stop by your home or apartment. Also, tune in to my local cable TV show, “Your Capitol: What’s Up?” which appears on public access channels 15 and 16. I can be reached by email at sen.chuck.wiger@senate.mn and by phone at 651-296-6820.

 

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