Bill Shock deadline: CU asks carriers for update

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Bill Shock: Consumers Union asks wireless carriers for update in advance of October 17 deadline
WASHINGTON – Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, today wrote the wireless industry trade group CTIA to ask for an update on the pledge by wireless carriers to provide free alerts to customers who are approaching their usage limits.

October 17 is the one-year deadline for the agreement announced last year by the CTIA and Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Cellphone providers, such as Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile, agreed to provide at least two of four types of alerts — data limits, voice limits, text limits, and international roaming charges – by October 17. The companies agreed to provide all four alerts by April 17. At the time of last year’s announcement, participating carriers were said to represent more than 97 percent of wireless customers in the U.S.

Consumer groups had pressed for reforms to help consumers avoid unexpected charges on their wireless bills – a problem known as “bill shock.” The FCC has a web portal that tracks the progress in providing the alerts by the participating carriers, according to the most recent information provided by CTIA. Consumer Reports Online has a web page that provides links and information about the FCC portal and tips on how to avoid “bill shock.”

In a letter to CTIA President Steve Largent, Ellen Bloom, Consumers Union’s Senior Director of Federal Policy, asked for an update on whether carriers would be in compliance with the agreement and make the information available to the public next week.

See below for the full text of the letter. For more information, contact David Butleror Kara Kelber at 202-462-6262.

 

October 10, 2012

Mr. Steve Largent
President & CEO
CTIA – The Wireless Association
1400 16th Street, NW
Suite 600
Washington, DC 20036

Dear. Mr. Largent:

October 17 marks the one-year deadline for the commitment made by wireless providers to send free alerts to help consumers avoid unexpected overage charges – a common problem known as “bill shock.”

As you know, under the plan announced last year by CTIA and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), participating companies agreed to start providing free alerts to wireless customers before and after they reach their monthly limits on data, voice, and texts. The plan – known as the “Wireless Consumer Usage Notification Guidelines” — also includes alerts to notify customers of international roaming charges when they are traveling abroad.

By October 17, participating carriers should be providing customers with at least two of the four notifications for data, voice, text and international roaming (and consumers should be receiving all four types of alerts by April 17). At the time of the announcement, participating companies were said to represent more than 97 percent of wireless customers in the U.S.

The FCC has a portal on its web site that tracks the progress in providing the alerts by the participating carriers, according to the most recent information provided by CTIA. Consumer Reports Online has its own web page that provides links and information about the FCC portal and tips on how to avoid “bill shock.”

As the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, Consumers Union has been pressing for reforms to curb “bill shock” for several years, and we were pleased to participate in the announcement of this plan last year. We believe that the free alerts that your members agreed to provide could make a significant difference in addressing this problem.

Our organization will be reporting on the status of compliance on October 17. As the deadline approaches, we urge your members to fulfill their commitments to consumers. Can you tell us whether you expect CTIA’s members to comply with this agreement and make the information available to the public next week?

Sincerely,

Ellen Bloom
Senior Director, Federal Policy and Washington Office
Consumers Union