FCC Looks To Temper Consumer ‘Bill Shock’

WASHINGTON, May 25, 2010 – The Federal Communications Commission’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau launched an initiative this month aiming to prevent the unpleasant experience of getting an unexpectedly high wireless phone bill.

WASHINGTON, May 25, 2010 – The Federal Communications Commission’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau launched an initiative this month aiming to prevent the unpleasant experience of getting an unexpectedly high wireless phone bill.This experience, referred to as bill shock, is something the agency wants to help Americans avoid, and is seeking input on ways to alert consumers about potential high charges before they add up.This is one of the first initiatives undertaken by the bureau’s Consumer Task Force, which launched in January.Joel Gurin, chief of that FCC bureau, said:“We’ve gotten hundreds of complaints about bill shock, but this is an avoidable problem. Avoiding bill shock is good for consumers and ultimately good business for wireless carriers as well.”The idea is to compile ideas from consumers on how to avoid bill shock, and compare it to the current European model.The European Union adopted regulations in June 2009 to govern the transparency of retail roaming charges. The provisions ensure that the customer is made aware of the charges for roaming and other services through automatic notification provided free of charge by the carrier.Gurin cited some examples of bill shock contained in the FCC call center’s files. Disgruntled customers complained of overage charges, changing contracts and misleading advertising. All of these are common complaints of U.S. mobile users.Besides seeking input, there were tips given to avoid bill shock in lieu of legislation. The tips included reviewing cell-phone usage, understanding the plan and other ways to identify costs in a consumer’s mobile plan.