Carriers Avoid FCC Regulation With the Bill Shock Deal

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2011-10-17 Print this article Print

But if alerts are being sent out, the company has a way to prevent these huge charges. The accounting department can either allow the employee to change plans to keep the overage in check or at least be prepared to pay the larger bills. In situations where the company is sending employees on international travel, the company may want to provide phones that are set up with accounts for international roaming, or even pay for SIM cards to provide their employees with a phone number local to the area where the travel is taking place.

Of course, there are still questions about whether the wireless companies will allow customers to switch plans reasonably and whether the companies will find a way for customers to prevent such overages (perhaps preventing calls that would exceed plan minutes, for example). Like anything else, the details matter, and they'll probably differ from one carrier to another.

What's also important about the agreement between the CTIA, Consumers Union and the FCC is that it allows the wireless industry to self-regulate and avoid a long, expensive regulatory process. However, the Consumer Federation of America worries that this might encourage the wireless industry to adopt rules that are weak and have little teeth, while also preventing the FCC from stepping in with new regulations.

For its part, the FCC has had a docket open on this topic for quite a while, and says it plans to keep it open to make sure that the "bill shock" issue is handled appropriately. Considering that Consumers Union is part of the agreement, I think there's little chance that the CTIA would be able to pull a fast one if only because the group would make sure that any effort to water down the rules was well publicized and would take it up with the FCC.

Of course, there is another reason why the industry will probably play it straight on the bill shock issue. The carriers will all need the FCC to issue licenses as their businesses grow, and if the wireless carriers have a history of anti-consumer activity, that will make it a lot harder to get those licenses.

In addition, the companies don't need any more negative publicity like the news stories that appear telling about five-figure cell phone bills. Such bills probably don't represent a significant amount of revenue, but the negative publicity can affect overall revenue growth if consumers feel that they are being abused by a particular carrier or by all carriers. Thus, the carriers have every reason to look as pro-consumer as they can. 


Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs 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.

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