CU pushes for rules to stop cell phone “bill shock”
WASHINGTON — Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, today filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in support of its proposed rules to stop cell phone “bill shock” – the growing problem of customers hit by unexpected charges on their wireless bills.
Consumers Union’s submission included signatures from more than 47,000 people who back the FCC’s proposal to require wireless companies to notify customers before they exceed their limits on minutes, text, and data.
Parul P. Desai, policy counsel for Consumers Union, said some industry groups have dismissed the proposed rules as unnecessary. She countered that some carriers do not offer reliable tools for consumers to keep up with their limits, and the current efforts of carriers have clearly not limited the experience of “bill shock” among customers.
“Consumers Union believes consumers will benefit most from consistent, industry-wide rules, and thousands of consumers agree,” Desai said. “Consumers cannot rely on voluntary industry codes to protect them from experiencing ‘bill shock.’ The FCC should implement mandatory, enforceable rules.”
Among the consumer stories submitted by Consumers Union was one from a Maryland man who was hit with a $4,000 wireless bill after his daughter studied abroad in England, even though he took steps to ensure that she limited her phone use and was on an international plan. He said the carrier T-Mobile did not alert them that the real-time information on the data charges would be delayed, and the carrier provided no warning that he was building up a large bill.
Consumer Reports recently polled more than 58,000 readers and found 1 in 5 respondents had received a much higher-than-expected cell phone bill in the past year. Among those consumers who reported “bill shock,” half of them were hit with least $50 in overage charges, and one in five was hit with more than $100 in overage charges.