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Bill Shock: Starting to Set the Rules

by: Joel Gurin

October 14, 2010

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At today's FCC open meeting, the Chairman and the four other commissioners unanimously voted to propose rules to prevent Bill Shock. These proposed rules would require mobile carriers to send their customers a voice or text message when they are approaching their limit for a text, voice, or data plan, and when they are starting to incur roaming fees. The Commission notes that there are already similar rules in the European Union, where these alerts appear to be helping consumers without putting an undue burden on wireless companies. You can read the proposed rules and the commissioners' and Chairman's statements here.

We in the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, which prepared these proposed rules, are happy to have the full support of the Commission as we go forward. What happens next is a period of comment to allow all interested parties – including the industry, consumer groups, and the public at large – to weigh in on our proposals. That's where you come in. You can go to our Consumer Help Center, at fcc.gov/consumers, and use the "File a Comment With the FCC" button to make your views known. If Bill Shock has happened to you, you can "File a Consumer Complaint" from the same website. You can also share your stories with us posting a comment to this blog, or sending me an e-mail at joel.gurin@fcc.gov.

In voting to propose these rules, the commissioners stressed the importance of a full record in determining the best way to prevent bill shock. The record on Bill Shock is growing all the time. Just yesterday, we learned about a new Consumer Reports online survey that found one-fifth of the respondents had experienced unexpected charges on their wireless bills. We need to hear from experts and the public alike to understand this problem and make sure consumers have the best tools to solve it. Please let us know about your views and your experiences. We look forward to hearing from you.

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