April 19, 2012 - 1:24 pm
By William D. Freedman | Deputy Chief, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau

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.  

As part of our effort to empower consumers by putting information online, the FCC is providing consumers the ability to learn when carriers begin to implement their voluntary commitments.  Today, the Commission is launching a web portal that contains a table showing which carriers are providing which types of alerts.  The Commission will regularly update the table to reflect each carrier’s progress in providing the agreed-upon alerts, based on the information that CTIA provides the agency.