In a public notice issued yesterday by the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, the FCC is looking into ways to prevent unexpectedly high wireless bills.
The agency wants to institute usage alerts and cut-off mechanisms similar to those required by the European Union.
“There can be many causes of bill shock, including unclear or misunderstood advertising, unanticipated roaming or data charges, and other problems,” said Joel Gurin, chief of the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, in a statement. “All can lead to charges that people don’t expect to get. In the European Union, carriers are required by law to send text messages to consumers when they are running up roaming charges or getting close to a set limit for data roaming. We’re issuing a Public Notice to see if there’s any reason that American carriers can’t use similar automatic alerts to inform consumers when they are at risk of running up a high bill.”
Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and several smaller carriers currently allow subscribers to monitor their usage by text message, according to CTIA.
“We look forward to educating the Commission on all of the carriers’ activities and offerings so that customers can stay informed,” said CTIA President and CEO Steve Largent in a statement. “Even though the ‘hundreds of complaints’ that the Public Notice references is less than four ten-thousandths of a percentage of the industry’s total subscribers, the industry strives to serve and provide all of our 285 million customers with the necessary tools to have a positive experience.”
Gurin said that complaints about bill shock come from all over the country and involve all the major wireless carriers. He cited some recent complaints from the FCC call center’s files that cited misleading advertising and skyrocketing overage charges.
The FCC’s Public Notice also seeks comment on how consumers currently monitor their wireless usage and whether they know when they are exceeding their predetermined allocations of voice minutes, text messages or data usage.
Comments on the proposal are due 45 days after publication in the Federal Register; reply comments are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
Filed Under: Industry regulations