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Blog Posts by William D. Freedman

Chairman Genachowski Visits Consumers Union’s Testing Lab, Discusses FCC Consumer Empowerment Agenda

by William D. Freedman, Deputy Chief, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau
May 11, 2012 - 12:08 PM


Chairman Genachowski at Consumers Union national headquarters in Yonkers, New York.
Chairman Genachowski at Consumers Union national headquarters in Yonkers, New York.


Last week, Chairman Julius Genachowski visited the Consumers Union (CU) national headquarters in Yonkers, New York. The headquarters is home to CU’s National Testing and Research Center, which includes extensive in-house laboratories where consumer products are tested.  The organization also famously publishes Consumer Reports.

On the laboratory tour, Chairman Genachowski joined Jim Guest, CU CEO and Consumer Reports President, to watch CU’s expert testing team evaluate smartphones and 3D televisions, discuss acoustics in a sound testing lab, and tour a situational “living room,” in which trained consumers rate products in a true-to-life environment. 

In addition to witnessing first-hand the testing labs at CU, Chairman Genachowski also discussed a number of consumer issues with the organization’s leadership, including, FCC initiatives to combat cell phone theft, prevent “bill shock”, and phone cramming and hidden fees on prepaid calling cards.

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New FCC Website to Help Consumers Beat ‘Bill Shock’

by William D. Freedman, Deputy Chief, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau
April 19, 2012 - 01:24 PM

The arrival of spring brings with it good news for consumers suffering from that malady known as bill shock: the appearance, like April dandelions, of sudden and unexpected overage charges on their wireless bills.  Bill shock can happen when a subscriber is charged for unknowingly exceeding plan limits for data, voice, or text, or is traveling abroad and gets hit with unexpected international roaming charges.  Thanks to the recent agreement by a group of carriers that account for service to 97 percent of U.S. wireless customers, important information is on its way that will allow consumers to save money on their monthly bills. 

And now, the FCC has added a portal to its website that will let wireless customers know which carriers are providing this information.

In 2010, the Commission identified the growing problem of bill shock and proposed rules that would require carriers to send usage alerts to consumers when they approach and reach monthly plan limits, and also send alerts when they were about to incur international roaming charges.  Last year, while the Commission’s staff was reviewing the comments that had been filed about these proposed rules, CTIA- the Wireless Association approached the FCC and proposed that, instead of the rules, its member carriers would agree toprovide the types of alerts that the Commission had called for.  Last October, CTIA revised its Consumer Code for Wireless Service to require that its participating carriers provide these alerts. 

Although these carriers are not required by the Code to start offering these alerts until October 17, 2012, according to CTIA, some are already providing their customers with some of this critical information.  

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