The FCC May 11 said it wants wireless carriers to notify their customers before they reach roaming or data usage limits under their wireless service plans. The idea is to staunch "bill shock" where users receive a wireless phone bill that is higher than they expected. One remedy for bill shock is to ask wireless carriers such as Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile to send their customers a short text message warning them that they are approaching their roaming and data usage limits.
The Federal Communications Commission wants wireless carriers to notify
their customers before they reach roaming or data usage limits under their
wireless service plans, a move to staunch the "bill shock" syndrome
that is plaguing the nation.
Bill shock is, quite simply, the unfortunate experience of getting a
wireless phone bill that was higher than expected.
Joel Gurin, chief of the FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau set
up by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in January, told media on a conference
call May 11 that the FCC has fielded hundreds of complaints about bill shock.
While Gurin stressed that his group is not "cracking down" on bill
shock, the FCC is raising questions about the issue.
"We are hearing from consumers about unpleasant surprises on their
bills," Gurin said, citing unclear or misunderstood advertising,
unanticipated roaming or data charges, and other problems as causes for bill
shock. "But this is an avoidable problem. Avoiding bill shock is good for
consumers and ultimately good business for wireless carriers as well."
One remedy for bill shock is to ask wireless carriers such as Verizon
Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile to send their customers a short text
message warning them that they are approaching their roaming and data usage
This approach takes a page from the playbook of the European Union, which
requires carriers such as Vodafone to text subscribers who are racking up
roaming charges or getting close to a set limit for data roaming.
"Our sense is that this has not been a particularly difficult thing to
implement in the EU ... and that the same principle seems to us like it could
be applied very well in the U.S," Gurin said.
public notice to determine whether or not wireless carriers in
the United States
can follow Europe's lead.
Gurin said he and his team want to find out from carriers if U.S.
providers are already offering such usage alerts, as well as how much they cost
to the consumer or the provider.
They also want to know whether technological or other differences exist that
would prevent U.S.
wireless providers from employing usage alerts similar to those now required by
The FCC further wants to learn how consumers can now monitor their wireless
usage and know when they are exceeding their predetermined allocations of voice
minutes, text messages or data usage.
"We really think that consumers should have the same kind of
transparency of information when it comes to all kinds of communications services,
including broadcast, cable, broadband and other services they may buy, not just
wireless and wireline," Gurin said on the call May 11.
The inquiry into bill shock is just the start.