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FCC aims to track carrier progress on bill shock

Fri, 04/20/2012 - 2:00pm
Andrew Berg, Wireless Week

The FCC is looking to ensure an end to wireless bill shock with today’s announcement of a new website that will track the carriers’ progress in preventing unexpected charges at the end of the month.

The initiative comes as a result of a deal reached back in October 2011 between carriers and the FCC, wherein operators agreed to alert customers when they are approaching their monthly limits on voice, data and text messages, as well as when they will be hit with international roaming charges.

The new website will aim to ensure carriers keep that promise by keeping track of exactly where each carrier is at with respect to the agreed-upon alerts. For example, the FCC website currently confirms that Sprint sends alerts to its customers if they are about to receive charges for international roaming, but the carrier does not have in place systems to alert customers for charges related to voice, data or text message overages.

The information is reported to the FCC by CTIA and will be updated, at least monthly, as new compliance information is provided by CTIA. The website will also indicate each carrier’s provision of the particular type of alert; link to the relevant details available on the carrier’s website; and show the designation “N/A” where a carrier offers an unlimited amount of the particular type of service, making the sending of usage alerts unnecessary.

According to the FCC, all alerts must be provided without charge, automatically, and subscribers should not have to take any action to receive the alerts. The carriers must provide their subscribers with at least two of the four types of alerts by Oct. 17, and all of the alerts by April 17, 2013.

In a recent study, the FCC found that 84 percent of American who experienced bill shock said they were unaware that they were about to exceed their limits and that their carriers had not alerted them of the pending charges. Fully 67 percent of overage charges reported to the FCC in 2010 were for more than $100, while 20 percent were for $1,000 or more.

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