Bill Shock Be Gone: FCC, Wireless Carriers Strike a Deal

By  |  Monday, October 17, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Rather than face regulation, wireless service providers have struck a deal with the Federal Communications Commission to warn customers about impending overage charges for voice, text and data use.

Customers will receive free text alerts in real-time when they’re about to exceed their limits, CNET reports. The move is supposed to cut down on the “bill shock” people may feel when hit with sky-high rates for extra usage. Wireless carriers will also warn customers who travel overseas about the additional fees they may incur.

The FCC has been talking about bill shock countermeasures for over a year. In May 2010, an FCC survey found that 17% of mobile customers have seen unexpected spikes in their bills, and that most of those people weren’t alerted ahead of time.

In October, the commission proposed rules that included the warnings wireless carriers are now implementing voluntarily. The FCC also considered mandating an easy way for customers to cap their own usage, so they’d never get hit with overage charges.

I’m guessing wireless providers struck a deal to avoid that mandate. The wireless industry loves overage fees, and the huge amounts of money they bring in. Earlier this year, the industry even tried to argue that overage fees are good for you, which of course is totally crazy, but shows how badly the industry doesn’t want those charges to go away.

Under the volunteer measures, wireless carriers have 18 months to put their warning systems in place. Yes, government is that slow.

Some providers, including AT&T and Verizon Wireless, already warn their customers as their data use approaches the limit. However, these warnings may be delayed. AT&T, for example, takes 24 hours. The agreement for real-time alerts may require wireless providers to speed up their systems.

As CNET points out, several apps are available for monitoring your own usage, including DataMan Pro, 3G Watchdog and Onavo, in case you don’t feel like waiting for wireless carriers.

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3 Comments For This Post

  1. Amberglow Says:

    It's about time somebody (even if it has to be the government *sigh*) did something about the wireless companies extorting their clients for all they're worth. I mean there aren't even caps on many of the contracts – simply because these big guys erely want more money, without giving any forethought to the utter financial drama they can plunge their customers into, and eventually the nation. Notifications are less of a hindrance and expense than prepaid tracfone's constant live update as to the status of their client's minutes, or accounts. And seriously, if tracfone can install this into their phones, the big carriers, with their plethora of smart phones can do so as well (without kicking up a little storm as to the puny cost of the texts that now have to go out to people.)

  2. Deanna Says:

    I just read your comment on the article about the FCC and wireless carriers "voluntary" agreement. We received a bill for $11,000.00 in November for international charges that were made on my daughter's phone. She has been out of the country for 6 months on a mission trip and had her phone packed away in a large backpack with no power or charger and she did not realize it had been stolen. It was stolen when she was in Ecuador in August and the calls didn not start until October. Hundreds and hundreds of calls were made on the phone from Oct. 29 to November 24 until we looked at our statement online and saw what was going on. No warning from Verizon. And from some things I have read about the agreement, they would send a text letting you know you are about to incur international roaming charges. Well, if the text went to my daughter's phone, the thief would get the text. Hmm, I wonder if that would deter the thief from using the phone?

  3. Deanna Says:

    Anyway, we were first told we were responsible for the bill and maybe they would take 25% off. However, after letters to every Verizon executive I could find an address for , a complaint with the FCC, state reps, BBB, etc., I was notified that Verizon would take the charges off my bill. I do not blame Verizon that our phone was stolen. It is our property and we are responsible for our belongings; however, with technology available, there is no reason we were not notified of some unusual activity showing up. Anyway, this is just one of many, many horror stories that go on every day and I am glad something is happening, but I am afraid the wireless providers will still be able to find "loopholes".