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CU presses wireless companies on bill shock plans

November 2, 2011

Consumers Union Presses Wireless Companies on Bill Shock Plans

WASHINGTON – Consumers Union, the public policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, today sent letters to wireless companies to urge them to disclose and implement their plans to fight consumer “bill shock” as soon as possible.
The letters come after the organization joined CTIA, the wireless industry trade association, and the FCC last month to announce the industry’s agreement to provide free alerts to help customers avoid “bill shock” – the unexpectedly large fees that pop up on your bill, often because you exceeded your usage limits. These alerts would be sent to consumers before they reach their limits on voice, text or data services, as well as free alerts to customers when they are about to incur international roaming charges.
“We know that some carriers are already providing certain alerts, and we see this as proof that it’s possible for consumers to begin receiving these free alerts now, rather than a year from now,” said Parul P. Desai, policy counsel for Consumers Union. “Unfortunately, current alert policies vary widely across companies and often times aren’t even clearly disclosed by wireless providers. We are simply asking wireless companies to make clear what tools consumers have available to them now, and urging them to comply with this new policy sooner rather than later.” 
The letters sent to each company ask about their respective plans for complying with the new code of conduct, as well as additional details about how each alert will be implemented and when. Some letters ask for clarifications to existing policies.  For example, CU’s letter to Verizon asks the company to explain its current policy for alerts, citing unclear information on its web site.  It also cites a recent Consumer Reports story by an editor who did not receive any alerts from Verizon before exceeding his plan’s limits, despite the company’s statement that it “strives” to provide these alerts.
Desai said, “In the spirit of cooperation that helped bring about this important agreement, we urge the participating wireless companies to make current alert policies as plain and clear as possible so consumers can benefit from them immediately.”
The consumer organization sent letters to Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile USA, Sprint, US Cellular, Cellcom, Cellular One of NE Arizona, Clearwire, Illinois Valley Cellular, SouthernLINC Wireless and Unicel, the eleven companies that signed the agreement and represent 93% of the wireless market.
For more information, contact David Butler or Kara Kelber at Consumers Union at dbutler@consumer.org or kkelber@consumer.org