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Most Consumers Report ‘Bill Shock,’ FCC Plans Action

in FCC/Mobile Broadband/Wireless by

WASHINGTON, October 14, 2010 – It’s not a surprise that “bill shock” is a problem. The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday released a white paper on complaints it has received on the issue, which addresses a sudden, unexpected increase in a monthly mobile phone bill, even when a customer had not changed service plans.

Bill shock may come from unexpected international roaming charges, exceeding data plan limits, taxes and other fees that a consumer unwittingly accrues.

The FCC found that:

*764 people complained to the FCC about bill shock in the first half of 2010;
*67 percent of those complained about amounts of $100 or more; and
*20 percent had complaints of $1,000 or more.

The largest complaint received during this time was for $68,505.

The new data and white paper follows an FCC survey that was released in May showing an estimated 30 million Americans had experienced some kind of bill shock.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said the agency would hold a public forum on unexpected phone charges and related issues, which will include consumers and consumer groups, industry representatives, and technology experts.

“It is a very difficult time in our economy. Millions of Americans are struggling to get by — and even a small, unexpected fee can make a big difference,” said Genachowski. “Now, more than ever, we need to make sure consumers aren’t being charged for more than what they signed up for, and that they have the information they need to make the best decisions for their families.”

Wireless association CTIA weighed in on the news, saying: “We agree with the FCC that the goal is to keep all customers happy, but we are concerned that prescriptive and costly rules that limit the creative offerings and competitive nature of the industry may threaten to offset these positive trends. We look forward to continuing to innovate and meet the needs and demands of our 292.8 million customers.”

More information on the FCC’s work on bill shock is available at http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/billshock/.

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