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Presentation on the Status of Alerts to Prevent Bill Shock (April 18, 2013)
There are now more wireless connections to phones and tablets in the United States than
there are people—and we rely on these devices like never before. They keep us connected to our
family and friends, our jobs, and our communities. They are a vital part of our daily life.
That is why it is more important than ever that consumers understand what we spend our
money on. Because let’s be honest, wireless plans have gotten complicated. Consider the
dizzying array of options available—shared and individual plans, limited and unlimited voice,
data, and text. To stay within a plan can require keeping track of voice, data, and text usage
across multiple devices. Not easy. No wonder, then, that a survey from the Commission found
that one in six Americans have experienced bill shock, stuck with unexpected fees when they
unknowingly exceed their wireless plan limits.
In a world where consumer choices are vast and complex, information is power. So it is
critically important to get consumers straightforward information about what they pay for and
when. Because nobody should need to hire a lawyer to understand their wireless contract and
nobody should need to hire an accountant to explain their bill.
That is why the bill shock initiative we are discussing today is an especially terrific effort.
Starting this week, wireless customers will receive alerts before they reach their voice, data, text,
and international roaming limits. This information means that they will no longer unknowingly
rack up unexpected charges on their bills. It is a nice demonstration of how information can
provide consumers with the confidence they need to make good choices and make use of new
But the Commission needs to remain vigilant. So I ask that the Consumer and
Governmental Affairs Bureau track complaints related to bill shock that come in to the agency
over the coming year and then produce a report summarizing their findings one year from now.
We must be certain that we have put the problem of bill shock behind us. And going forward we
should look for new opportunities to provide consumers with more information to provide them
with the confidence they need to make good choices and take full advantage of the opportunities
the digital age offers. I think that studying the data we already have—like the 400,000
complaints and inquires the Commission receives every year—is a good place to start.
Thank you to the Chairman, Consumers Union, and CTIA for pulling together and
working to address this problem. Fixing bill shock means a better wireless experience for
consumers across the country. That’s something worth celebrating.

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