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Fighting Bill Shock: We Hear You Now

by: Joel Gurin

October 13, 2010 - 05:01 PM

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As you can read in his blog post here, our Chairman, Julius Genachowski, outlined an ambitious Consumer Empowerment Agenda in his speech earlier today. The goal of that agenda is to ensure that consumers have better, more complete, and more helpful information on all the communications services we use every day. We're taking the concept of truth in billing and expanding it to truth at every stage – ensuring that you have accurate information when you're choosing a service provider, choosing a plan, or deciding whether to switch providers, as well as when you're reading your bill.

Today, we've also released a white paper that analyzes the complaints we've gotten on wireless bill shock over the past few months. The data are, well, shocking. Out of a total of 764 complaints from January through June, we found that two-thirds involved amounts of a hundred dollars or more; 150 complaints involved a thousand dollars or more; and eight complaints involved 10 thousand dollars or more.

Three consumers at today's event told stories about their own experiences that show the human side of the bill-shock numbers. One was a woman who was visiting her sister in Haiti when the earthquake hit, and unexpectedly had to use her phone for voice and text back to the U.S. Her carrier told her that they would waive fees for people dealing with this emergency – but it turned out that they only waived fees for voice. She returned home to find a 35 thousand dollar phone bill. The carrier has now waived most of that charge, but is still billing her for over five thousand dollars for using her phone during this emergency situation.

At tomorrow's Open Commission Meeting the Commission will vote on proposed rules that will take action to prevent bill shock and protect consumers. These rules would require carriers to send you alerts when you're in danger of running up a high bill. We'll update you with details on the rulemaking after tomorrow's vote.

As we take action to fight bill shock and solve other consumer problems, we want to hear your stories. If you post a comment to this blog and want us to follow up, please let us know how we can reach you, either by including your email address in the comment or by sending it to me at joel.gurin@fcc.gov. And if you want to file a complaint with the FCC, you can do so at our Consumer Help Center at FCC.gov/consumers. We've heard your concerns over the last several months, and we're still listening.

Updated: April 18, 2012 - 11:43 AM
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