Interesting: NYT reports,

The nation’s largest cellular phone companies are set to announce today a voluntary seal-of-approval program in hopes of staving off more restrictive consumer legislation.

The national wireless carriers — Verizon Wireless, Cingular, Sprint PCS, Nextel and AT&T, along with numerous regional companies — have agreed to adhere to a 10-part code of behavior that is intended to make it easier for consumers to compare prices and plans.

All companies that display the seal must provide a minimum 14-day trial period for new customers, coverage maps describing where service is available, and specific disclosure of rates and plans, among other things.

This is good news. Despite a hypercompetitive market, shopping for cellular service is among the least transparent transactions imaginable. Each plan has some major “catch” that makes it undesirable and it requires some detective work to figure out what it is. Apples-to-apples comparison is virtually impossible, since “minutes” are an almost meaningless statistic until one figures in roaming charges, when it’s “anytime” versus “evenings,” and various hidden fees and annoyances.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.