FCC votes to explore cellphone bill-shock proposal
The Federal Communications Commission moved forward on a proposal that could help consumers avoid surprising charges on their cellphone bills, with the five-member commission agreeing unanimously to explore the regulatory proposal.
The decision was the first step in a months-long process at the FCC that will ultimately result in another vote on whether carriers should be forced to alert consumers when they near their allotted limits for voice, text and data services. Carriers would be told through text and voice alerts before reaching their limits and they would be similarly warned when their carrier charges the user for international roaming fees.
The wireless industry and two Republican commissioners warned that rules shouldn’t be so rigid that they force extra costs on firms that ultimately trickle down to consumers.
“Upgrades to billing services may be expensive and burdensome for smaller carriers and prepaid providers,” said Republican commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker.
Republican member Robert McDowell questioned some of the survey data analyzed by the FCC that showed bill shock among the bigger complaints among wireless users.
In a white paper, the FCC’s consumer bureau said it received 764 complaints on bill shock during the first six months of the year. The paper said the FCC expects to receive about 1,500 complaints on the topic this year.
McDowell noted that the number of bill shock complaints appeared small compared with the overall subscriber base. He urged more analysis of complaint data.
“What is not stated is that America is home to 295 million wireless subscribers,” McDowell said. “Being data-driven means more than focusing on a few facts and figures.”
| October 14, 2010; 12:10 PM ET
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