On October 1, the first day of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed into law a bill granting domestic violence survivors the legal right to transfer their cell phone numbers out of accounts controlled by their abusers.
Currently, many wireless providers require account holders to grant permission to anyone wishing to transfer a number out of the account. In some cases, the two parties must be physically present together to make the transfer. Now, a survivor can move her phone number or family plan into her own name—without involving her abuser. A court must issue an order requiring the wireless provider to make the transfer.
“Victims of domestic violence must be able to use their wireless devices for their safety and to have access to emotional, financial and legal support,” said Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), author of the bill, in a press release. “With AB 1407, California will give judges and service providers the power to help individuals maintain a lifeline to life-saving resources. I thank Governor Brown for signing this important bill into law.”
The bill also grants immunity to wireless providers that transfer numbers to survivors under court order; previously, an account holder could take legal action if a number was transferred without their consent. All four major wireless providers—Sprint, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile—have voiced their support for the bill.
This is a critical move for survivors who may be at risk for stalking or further abuse: Wireless phone account holders can access usage data—such as numbers called and texted—and use GPS to track the cell phone user. If survivors are in control of their own accounts, that lowers their risk of being tracked by an abusive partner or ex-partner.
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