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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.”

By Cecilia Kang  | October 14, 2010; 12:10 PM ET
Categories:  FCC  
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Next: FCC bill shock proposal exposes carriers to greater legal woes, analyst says

Comments

nice to see the party of no idea members had their masters' (corporations) interest at heart.

thanks, party of china, for your concern for the middle class.

Posted by: xxxxxx1 | October 14, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

The number of complaints may be small due to a larger number of people who don't complain to the FCC???

Posted by: edeckel | October 14, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Maybe complaint numbers are low because people don't have any faith or hope left that anything will actually change...the rich will keep getting richer and the rest will just get on with life...what has complaining got them over the years-more excuses? Maybe it's enough to make us realize, don't bother complaining, just get out of dealing with bill shock. I've been waiting to see what happens here, with the idea that I may move back to contract so that I can get the phone I want, but reading this, I think I'm better off staying with prepaid. With Net10, I may not be able to get the ideal handset, but I know what I'm paying for and I know it's cheaper than any contract provider out there.
Honestly, if you want to spend more time and money doing "more analysis of complaint data" you may suddenly find you have nothing to analyze as everyone has moved to prepaid's greener pastures!

Posted by: wayup | October 15, 2010 3:16 AM | Report abuse

I think a lot of consumers can avoid this bill shock or any extra fees if they do a little research and decide to maybe go prepaid as another poster mentioned. Personally, I dealt with this kind of bill shock for years when I was with contract carriers and the difference with these extra fees would sometimes shoot my bill well over $200. I immediately looked around for another company and downsized my minutes so I could still save money and have decent coveragE. What consumers don't always realize is just because its prepaid doesn't mean there is a drop in quality or coverage - my NET10 coverage is just as dependable as another service. Not to mention, NET10 just started a new unlimited usage plan for $50 so any consumer who wants to talk and text a lot and not be jammed up with fees might want to look up such a deal.

Posted by: kcgomez83 | October 16, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

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