“Bill shock” regulations to protect consumers from being burned by surprise mobile phone charges are being proposed by the Federal Communications Commission. Cell phone users finding unexpected charges on their monthly bills is nothing new. However, the problem became big news when the FCC forced Verizon to refund customers approximately $50 million in questionable fees. Wireless carriers are planning their opposition strategy as the FCC announced a period of public comment on new bill shock rules starting Thursday.
Surprises won’t hit with bill shock rules
The FCC suggested that wireless carriers be required to tell customers when reaching usage limits by text or voice, which is what the bill shock regulation is. According to the New York Times, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski says the commission is also thinking of making it required for carriers to tell customers when extra charges not covered by the monthly plan are going to be added on before they do it. Genachowski approves of the bill shock rules. She says they are “nonburdensome” and “a terrific example of a 21st century consumer policy.” Many wireless carriers are completely against the regulation. They don’t approve of a bill shock regulation requirement. AT&T said in an FCC filing that customer service won’t get better if rules are over them all the time.
Mobile life might soon include bill shock
The FCC opened an investigation of bill shock last spring. According to PC World, the FCC did a study. This study showed that 30 million Americans have experienced bill shock at one point or another. In the study, 17 percent of 3,000 people said they kept the same plans but their cell phone bills still went up every month. The FCC was accused by the Wireless Association of only polling customers younger than 18 in order to get the results they wanted. Also, the questions are another thing the group wants checked out. The FCC might have phrased questions in order to get to the “bill shock” it wanted.
A shocking bill
Kerfye Pierre is featured in a story that CNN reported as an example of extreme bill shock. Pierre came home after volunteering in Haiti after the earthquake. Sitting in her mailbox was a phone bill for $35,000. According to T-Mobile, she was on a “courtesy plan” that allowed her to set up camps for children and give victims water while using her phone for free. Turns out, the plan only covered voice calls. She was required to pay for her Facebook visits. She also had to pay for texts.
New York Times: http://nytimes.com/2010/10/13/technology/13shock.html?_r=1&src=busln
PC World: http://pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2366683,00.asp
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