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Effort to stop cell phone shock

Effort to stop cell phone shock


by Terri Gruca / KVUE News

Bio | Email | Follow: @TerriG_KVUE


Posted on May 17, 2010 at 9:15 AM

Shocked at your cell phone bill? The FCC doesn’t think you should be.

Last week the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau launched a “bill shock” initiative. The idea is to get your feedback on ways to alert you about potential high charges before they add up.

”We are hearing from consumers about unpleasant surprises on their bills,” said Gurin.

“We’ve gotten hundreds of complaints about bill shock. But this is an avoidable problem.

Avoiding bill shock is good for consumers and ultimately good business for wireless carriers as well.”

In the European Union, carriers are required by law to text you when you’re running up roaming charges or getting close to a set limit for data roaming. So the FCC wants to find out if there’s any reason American carriers can’t do the same thing.

Here’s what the FCC wants input on:

  • Whether technological or other differences exist that would prevent wireless providers in this country from employing usage alerts similar to those now required by the EU.
  • The extent to which consumers can now monitor their wireless usage and know when they are exceeding their predetermined allocations of voice minutes, text messages, or data usage.
  • The extent to which U.S. providers are already offering such usage alerts, and the cost to the consumer or the provider.
  • Whether certain usage controls lend themselves more to one type of service (such as voice) than to another (such as data).
  • The extent to which such information can be accessed on wireless devices by people with disabilities – in particular, by people who are blind or have low vision -- and what kinds of usage alerts would be most helpful to them.

You can go here or here to leave your comments.

Gurin says that complaints about bill shock come from all over the country and involve all the major wireless carriers. He cited some recent complaints from the FCC call center’s files:

  • “My [cell phone] bill suddenly tripled in one month. . . When I got to looking it over, I noticed that they had charged me for my mobile to mobile minutes. They had advertised free mobile to mobile.”
  • “I received a bill this month with over $500 in overage charges which led me to check my statement. I found that on my wife’s and my phones over the past three months we have had 246 calls totaling 304 minutes from [two unknown numbers].”
  • “I recently updated my wireless plan in Sept 09. Since I upgraded my plan, my bills have been outrageous. I was informed . . . that my rollover minutes were taken away when I changed my plan. . . . I was never informed this would affect my rollover minutes and have thus racked up hundreds of dollars in overages at $.45 a minute.”

If you’ve tried to resolve your cell phone issue and are not satisfied the FCC does have a complaint center you can call. The number is 1-888-CALL FCC (1-888-225-5322), or file a complaint on the Web.