Wireless 'Bill Shock' Deal Will Help Businesses as Well as Consumers

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 international roaming.

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

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...