News Analysis: While the primary goal of the so-called "bill-shock" agreement is to protect consumers from getting unexpectedly high wireless bills, it also benefits business users and could save your company a lot of money.
The agreement that the CTIA and Consumers Union put together with the Federal Communications Commission to
alert customers when they're about to run up a huge bill will help protect
against what the groups call "bill shock." This phenomenon occurs when you exceed
the limits on calling minutes, text messages or data use, and as a result, rack
up huge bills for the overage.
Not only are some of these
overages huge, but in many cases, they're also completely unexpected and can
cause hardship for consumers. In reports to the FCC, consumers have told about
situations in which their children have exceeded the limits without their
knowledge. In another instance, a woman traveling on a Caribbean cruise left
her phone turned on, and that resulted in huge data charges as her Android phone
polled repeatedly for new email and received text messages.
The CTIA is making new rules
in the organization's "Wireless Consumer Usage Notification Guidelines," which will become part
of the CTIA's Consumer Code for Wireless Service. CTIA members must agree to
the consumer code. All four of the major U.S. carriers are members and have
already agreed to implement the notifications.
The way this would work is
that as consumers approach their plan limits, they'd receive a message from
their carrier letting them know that they were about start incurring extra
wireless charges. The same kind of notification would take place when wireless
customers used their phones outside the U.S. and would get charged for
A similar notification would
also be sent out by the carriers after the limits were exceeded to warn that
higher charges were being added to the customer's wireless bill. The wireless
companies have until April 17, 2013, to implement the notification, although all
the companies have at least some similar notification plan in operation
already. Of course, none of this will actually prevent wireless customers from
running up huge bills anyway, but at least they'll be warned.
This is important for your
business for a couple of reasons. First, many companies are moving to a system
that allows employees to use their personal wireless devices for work. The
companies that allow this presumably either pay the wireless bills directly or
they reimburse their employees for their business-related wireless expenses.
But what happens when an employee exceeds their plan minutes and gets a
whopping bill? In some cases, the company gets the bill and is faced with
budget-busting phone charges. In others, the employee will want reimbursement,
especially if the overages were incurred as a part of company activities, such
as international business travel.
Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.
He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.