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Free alerts help customers avoid “bill shock”

Monday, October 17, 2011

Consumers Union Statement on “Bill Shock” Announcement with FCC, CTIA

WASHINGTON – Parul, P. Desai, policy counsel for Consumers Union, today made the following statement at an event with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and CTIA-The Wireless Association to announce wireless companies will provide free alerts to help consumers avoid unexpected overage charges:
Thank you, Chairman Genachowski, and Congressman Largent for moving forward on this important issue today. Consumers Union is glad to be here today with the FCC and to also be standing along side the CTIA…after all, it doesn’t happen all that often.
Our magazine, Consumer Reports, has consistently found in its surveys that consumers are experiencing bill shock as a result of overage charges that they are unaware of. We have also heard from many consumers about the heavy toll of finding unexpected charges on their monthly cell phone bills, which, according to the FCC, may be up to $1000. As a result, we at Consumers Union have long been pushing for reforms to crack down on the problem. So today we are encouraged that the wireless industry is offering to provide free alerts to help customers avoid such bill shock. We understand that the industry has agreed to start doing this within 12 months. We urge them not to wait and challenge each company to do it as soon as possible.
We know some carriers, like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Cox and US Cellular are already providing certain alerts.
So we think it’s possible – and consumers deserve – to begin receiving free alerts now to avoid overage charges. It is especially important to provide these tools now, because many consumers cannot afford these unexpected charges in this tough economy.
Consumers Union is going to work together with the FCC on their website that will shine a light on industry’s compliance with this Code of Conduct, and we’re pleased the Commission is keeping this proceeding open to help ensure compliance.
Ultimately, this is about helping people protect their pocketbooks, so we applaud the FCC and CTIA’s members for this effort to do right by consumers, and hope that the entire wireless industry follows suit.
David Butler, 202-462-6262