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Cell Carriers, States Reach Deal

Three of the nation's largest cellular phone companies have reached a deal with 32 states that requires them to be more upfront with customers in their advertisements and service plans.

Verizon Wireless, Cingular Wireless and Sprint PCS will be required to provide more detailed coverage maps to consumers and give new customers two weeks to terminate service without penalty. Their marketing also must be more specific about the costs and limits of services.

"Under the agreement, consumers will have a trial period to find out if they have wireless service where they live, work and play," said Tennessee Attorney General Paul Summers.

The agreements end investigations in the participating states that focused on allegations of misleading advertising and a lack of disclosure on such issues as where service is available, said New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey.

Together, the three companies have about 85 million customers.

Mobile carriers were the No. 2 industry for complaints to Better Business Bureaus last year, after auto dealers. The industry had the second-lowest consumer satisfaction ranking, beating only cable providers, in the University of Michigan's June consumer satisfaction index.

The California Public Utilities Commission adopted a Telecommunications Bill of Rights in May that requires companies to inform customers about rate increases, bill customers only for services they request and allow consumers to drop a wireless service, without penalty, within 30 days.

The states in the settlement are Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

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