The Business Council of New York State opposes passage of I.R 1266, which would require retailers in Suffolk County to institute an identification and record keeping system for the purchase of any prepaid cell phones.
Specifically the bill requires retailers to obtain two forms of identification from customers at the time of purchase, and requires that they keep detailed records for three years of all sales including the date of sale, make and model of phone, photocopies of IDs, and the service supplier.
While we understand the necessity to develop tools to assist law enforcement agencies in apprehending criminals who use prepaid phone cards, this is not the best approach. We believe that these requirements will deny customers access to a popular and necessary mobile phone service, place unreasonable burdens on the retail community, and subject consumers to privacy exposure without significantly reducing crime.
Prepaid cellular phones often provide the only available phone option for low income consumers. For many families who do not have access or the ability to maintain a traditional land line telephone service at their residence, the prepaid product is their only means of communication. Prepaid customers rely on these phones services to contain costs for themselves and their families.
Prepaid phones have become popular with millions of consumers because they can avoid being locked into a contract and paying monthly phone bills. Again, for many struggling families taking on another bill is not an option. For others a cell phone is used merely for safety or on rare occasions.
Another problem with the bill is the requirement to show two forms of ID. For many prepaid consumers, this is just not possible. Millions of Americans are without driver’s licenses and other forms of ID. Despite good intentions, this provision will not guarantee accurate ID information. Criminals will simply obtain fake, borrowed, or stolen identification for this transaction. At the same time, law-abiding consumers unable to produce two forms of ID will be shut out from access to telephone service.
This bill would impose burdensome record-keeping requirements on merchants, many of whom would likely stop selling prepaid cell phones. Most of these merchants are ill-equipped to handle the responsibility of collecting personal information and phone data for weekly transmission.
Finally, we believe that creating a separate local law specific to Suffolk County is not conducive to building a healthy business environment. A confusing patchwork of local and state laws will create inconsistency in the application of the law. This type of information collection program should be done at a national level.
For the foregoing reasons, we urge the county legislature to oppose passage of I.R 1266.