Mobile Carriers Voluntarily Promise To Insulate Consumers From Bill Shock

Bill shock: The outrage that followed the one in six mobile phone owners who discovered, according to the FCC, that a monthly bill was well over the usual, sometimes as much as $50 or $100 more.

Under pressure from consumer groups, the FCC has struck a deal with AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile. In a voluntary agreement, the major mobile telcos have promised to send text alerts to customers who are reaching their usage limits.

The deal was reached with CTIA, the association of wireless providers, who promised to phase in the warnings. According to one report, “The companies say they'll have at least half of them in place in a year and all of them in place in two years.” In addition, they also promise “to warn subscribers that they're paying roaming fees if they travel abroad.”

While some consumer groups are skeptical about the ability, or intent, of the industry to police itself, others, like the Consumers Union, are working with the FCC to implement the policy. In fact, said the LA Times, “The FCC and Consumers Union will work together to launch the website early next year to keep consumers updated on what type of alerts wireless companies are offering and to track their compliance.”

“We’re encouraged that the industry is offering to provide free alerts to help customers avoid ‘bill shock,’ and we urge them to do it as quickly as possible," said Parul Desai, policy counsel for Consumers Union. “Some companies are already providing free alerts, while others are charging extra fees for them, and we think it’s possible — and consumers deserve — to immediately receive free alerts to avoid overage charges.”