The FCC, following queries into the practices of wireless carriers, is set to propose new rules requiring that customers be alerted before charges are incurred in addition to their monthly plans.
The Federal Communications Commission is taking its next set of steps to
consumers from experiencing "bill shock"-unexpected charges on their
mobile phone statements due to hidden costs or unclear billing practices.
According to the New York Times, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski on Oct. 14
will propose to the five-member commission that wireless carriers and mobile
Internet companies be required to alert consumers when they're about to incur
charges above the set amount of their monthly plans.
"The data is clear that there is a significant consumer issue,"
study commissioned by the FCC
regarding consumers' feelings about their
wireless service bills found Americans to be generally confused about wireless
billing. Approximately 30 million Americans reported experiencing sudden
one-time increases to their bills, though they hadn't made changes to their
calling or texting plans.
In May, Joel Gurin, chief of the FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs
Bureau, said the
FCC has fielded hundreds of complaints
about bill shock and his team was
questioning carriers about the practice and costs of alerting consumers to
overages. Requiring such a warning would not be unprecedented, as carriers in
the European Union are required to warn customers when they're close to their
data limit or about incur roaming charges.
"The solution is a 21st-century solution," Genachowski said,
according to the Times.
Still, mobile phone companies are less keen to take up the practice, even
while asserting that customers have the right to clear information regarding
the wireless usage. In a filing with the FCC, Verizon pointed out that many
wireless carriers helpfully offer online tools that allow customers to monitor
Such online tools, however, have not been enough to prevent bill shock. The
FCC got involved in the issue, the Time reports, after The Boston Globe ran a
story about a Massachusetts man
who racked up an $18,000 bill after an offer of free data downloads expired.
The FCC, in its proposal Oct. 14, will ask that wireless companies make
their billing practices easier to understand and more clearly spell out what
the limits of a contract are and what fees apply. "Most people still don't
know what a megabyte is," Genachowski said, according to the Times.
"So it's hard to expect them to know when they have reached their
According to the Times, the chairman's office rarely puts forth proposals
that aren't likely to receive the support of the majority of the board.