A cure to the sort-of medical condition known as ‘bill shock’ – the reaction when a cell phone user realizes ghastly overage charges – is finally here. CTIA, the international wireless association representing wireless carriers, announced a plan today that will call for free alerts by wireless providers to consumers when they are likely to incur overage charges.
The agreement, an addition to an existing CTIA document called the Consumer Code for Wireless Service, will provide free alerts before and after subscribers reach their monthly limits on voice, data, and text. Notifications will also be sent to inform consumers of international roaming charges when traveling abroad, CTIA said in an announcement today.
‘Bill shock’ was the target of a Federal Communications Commission probe in May 2010 that set out to investigate and resolve unexpectedly high phone bills. Now the major U.S. carriers – covering 97 percent of mobile users – have voluntarily agreed to abide by the new requirements.
“Far too many Americans know what it’s like to open up their cell-phone bill and be shocked by hundreds or even thousands of dollars in unexpected fees and charges,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. “Our phones shouldn’t cost us more than the monthly rent or mortgage.”
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski called the decision a “victory” for consumers, saying the alerts will help subscribers save money on their monthly wireless bills. An earlier study by the FCC found that 30 million Americans, or one in six mobile users, have experienced bill shock – defined as a “sudden and unexpected increase in monthly bills that is not caused by a change in service plans.” Of those who went over, 84 percent said they never received a warning when they neared the limit.