Skip Navigation

Federal Communications Commission

English Display Options

FCC Encyclopedia

Bill Shock

A recent FCC Survey indicated that 30 million Americans—or one in six mobile users—have experienced "bill shock," a sudden and unexpected increase in monthly bills that is not caused by a change in service plans. Bill shock can occur for a number of reasons including unclear or misunderstood advertising, unanticipated roaming or data charges, and other problems.

It can be difficult to know when you're running up a surprisingly high wireless bill, especially if you don't monitor your usage or receive automatic usage alerts.

The FCC's Consumer Task Force recommends these strategies to avoid bill shock today:

  • Understand your calling pattern for making voice calls, and ask your carrier for a plan that would be best for your kind of use.
  • If you are an infrequent phone user, consider a pre-paid plan. Because you "pre-pay" for all your minutes, these plans make it impossible to go over your set limit.
  • Understand what your roaming charges are and where you will incur them.
  • Understand your options for data and text plans.
  • If you are going to use your mobile phone outside the U.S. for voice, email, and other services, make certain to find out beforehand what charges may apply. (Visit Wireless World Travel for more information about using a wireless phone in other countries.)
  • Ask how your carrier can help you avoid bill shock – with phone or text alerts, by letting you monitor your account online, or by giving you other information.
  • If you have tried to resolve a billing issue with your carrier and can not reach an acceptable resolution, complain to the FCC. You can call our Consumer Center, toll-free, at 1-888-CALL FCC (1-888-225-5322), or file a complaint here.

To learn more, read the FCC's White Paper on Bill Shock.

To file comments on the bill shock proceeding, visit ECFS Express.

Consumer Resources

From the Chairman:
The FCC's Consumer Empowerment Agenda

Blog Posts:
Senior Consumers Also Experience Cell Phone Bill Shock
Bill Shock: Starting to Set the Rules
Fighting Bill Shock: We Hear You Now
Denying Bill Shock by Distorting the Facts
Consumer View: Stop the Shock

Consumer Guides:
Carrier Compliance: Helping Consumers Avoid Bill Shock
Tips for Avoiding Bill Shock on your Mobile Phone

White Paper:
Word | Acrobat

Verizon Wireless “Mystery Fees” Consent Decree:
Word | Acrobat

Updated: April 17, 2013
close
FCC

You are leaving the FCC website

You are about to leave the FCC website and visit a third-party, non-governmental website that the FCC does not maintain or control. The FCC does not endorse any product or service, and is not responsible for, nor can it guarantee the validity or timeliness of the content on the page you are about to visit. Additionally, the privacy policies of this third-party page may differ from those of the FCC.