FCC reports all participating cellphone companies have fulfilled “bill shock” agreement

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FCC reports all participating cellphone companies have fulfilled “bill shock” agreement

Consumers Union says report is good news for consumers after years of complaints about surprise charges on wireless bills

WASHINGTON – The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today formally announced that cellphone companies have fulfilled their agreement to start providing free alerts to customers before they go over their plan’s usage limits.

Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, said the announcement is welcome news for millions of wireless customers who have experienced cellphone “bill shock.”  For years, the nonprofit organization has pushed for better tools to help consumers keep track of their cellphone usage, so that they can avoid the shock of huge, surprise charges on their bills for going over their plan limits.

A national survey by Consumers Union in 2011 found that 1 in 5 respondents had received an unexpected charge on a wireless bill during the past 12 months.

In October 2011 the FCC and wireless carriers announced a voluntary agreement, under which companies promised to send free alerts to customers clearly informing them that they are approaching their limits on data, calls, and texts, as well as international roaming charges.

Yesterday – April 17th – was the deadline for participating companies to provide all four types of alerts.  The participating companies represent more than 97 percent of the wireless customers in the U.S., and include the nation’s four largest carriers: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile.  At this morning’s FCC meeting, Chairman Julius Genachowski said all participating carriers were in full compliance with the agreement.

Delara Derakhshani, policy counsel for Consumers Union, said, “We’re pleased that companies are reporting that they’re living up to this agreement, and we’re going to keep monitoring how they are performing and asking consumers what they think as well. For years, we heard horror stories from people hit with hundreds, even thousands, of dollars in surprise charges on a single bill.  Today we’re glad that more people are getting better tools to avoid bill shock. We will remain vigilant in ensuring this agreement works as promised for all consumers and that those who could be most vulnerable to bill shock and cramming, such as consumers in lower income communities and communities of color, are benefiting from the alerts.”

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Contact: Kara Kelber, 202-462-6262