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Consumers are getting help to avoid bill shock thanks to a 2011 agreement by the major U.S. wireless service providers to a change in the voluntary Consumer Code for Wireless Service sponsored by the industry trade group CTIA – The Wireless Association.

Approximately 97 percent of wireless customers across the country are protected from bill shock. The participating carriers have each committed to sending a series of free usage alerts to their subscribers with wireless plans that impose additional charges for exceeding limits on voice, data or text usage, and to those consumers without an international roaming plan/package who may incur charges when using their wireless devices while travelling abroad.

These alerts, which apply to currently-offered and future domestic voice, data and messaging plans as of October 17, 2011, the date of the Code’s revision, allow subscribers to better monitor and manage the use of their devices and avoid unexpected charges. Carriers must provide the alerts automatically and without charge. Subscribers do not need to take any action to receive the alerts.

The carriers have committed to providing alerts to subscribers when they approach and when they exceed plan allowances and will incur overage charges for voice, data and messaging. Alerts are also sent to consumers without an international roaming plan/package whose devices have registered abroad and who may incur international roaming charges.

The following table shows the specific alerts by company, according to the latest information supplied by CTIA, and links to details about the alerts on service provider websites. Where a carrier does not offer a particular type of service or offers only the service on an unlimited basis for plans offered on or after the October 17, 2011 revision of the Code, making the sending of usage alerts unnecessary, the table indicates “N/A” for the service in question.

Carrier Voice Data SMS/Text Int'l Roaming
AT&T Yes Yes N/A Yes
Cellcom Yes Yes Yes Yes
Cellular One of NE Arizona Yes Yes Yes Yes
Clearwire N/A Yes N/A N/A
Plateau Yes Yes Yes N/A
SouthernLINC Wireless Yes Yes Yes N/A
Sprint Yes Yes Yes Yes
T-Mobile USA Yes Yes N/A Yes
US Cellular Yes Yes Yes Yes
Verizon Wireless Yes Yes Yes Yes

N/A = Carrier does not offer the service or offers it only on an unlimited basis on all domestic plans offered as of or after October 17, 2011, making the sending of usage alerts unnecessary.

Last Updated: April 17, 2013

Consumer Information and Complaints

Additional information about the CTIA Consumer Code for Wireless Service is available at CTIA.org.

If you have tried to resolve a billing issue with your carrier and cannot reach an acceptable resolution, you may complain to the FCC. You can call our Consumer Center, toll-free, at 1-888-CALL FCC (1-888-225-5322) (voice) or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) (TTY), or file a complaint online.

Updated: September 25, 2014
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