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Bill shock: FCC reports progress

Consumers Union says alerts help wireless customers avoid costly surprises

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bill shock: FCC reports progress, Consumers Union says alerts help wireless customers avoid costly surprises

Consumers Union 2011 survey found 1 in 5 hit by unexpected charges on wireless bills in past year

WASHINGTON – Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, said today’s status report by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on the effort to prevent wireless “bill shock” is good news for consumers.

The FCC reported that wireless carriers have fulfilled their initial commitment to start providing free alerts to customers before and after they exceed their usage 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 year, with 38% reporting being hit with a charge of $30 or more.

Ellen Bloom, Director of Federal Policy for Consumers Union, said, “If you’ve ever struggled to make sense of your wireless bill and keep track of your limits, these alerts can offer some real relief.  Wireless customers have been getting hit left and right with unexpected charges. These free notifications help consumers keep tabs on plan limits so that they can avoid costly surprises in their bills. We’re glad to hear that companies are living up to this agreement, and we’re going to keep monitoring them to make sure consumers get the alerts they need.”

Today marks the one-year deadline for an agreement announced by the FCC and the wireless trade group CTIA last year.  Wireless carriers – including Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile — agreed to notify customers as they approached their limits on data, voice, or text, as well as international roaming charges.  Companies agreed to provide at least two types of alerts by today’s date, and all four types of alerts by April 17.  At the time of the announcement, the participating companies were said to represent more than 97 percent of wireless customers in the U.S.

The FCC today said all participating companies had met or beaten today’s deadline, and they were on track for full compliance by April.  The FCC reaffirmed today that, if companies fall short in upholding this voluntary agreement, it would consider imposing regulations to require these notifications.

Contact: David Butler, dbutler@consumer.org, or Kara Kelber, kkelber@consumer.org202-462-6262.