updated 04:50 am EDT, Wed October 13, 2010
Forcing auto-notification when near usage limit
The Federal Communications Commission is proposing to introduce rules forcing cellphone carriers to automatically notify users when their monthly usage on calls or texts is near its limit. This move is aimed to help reduce the incidence of 'bill shock' that is prevalent and permits carriers to charge large and sometimes excessive fees on unsuspecting customers. It also plans to force to carriers to notify users if they are in roaming areas where excess charges may apply.
"This is a problem of real magnitude in terms of the number of Americans it affects, and also with dollar amounts that are material to families trying to meet a monthly budget," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said at its Thursday meeting. An FCC spring survey found that around 30 million people had experienced bill shock and that overage charges often amounted to $50 or more.
Cellphone carries argue that the rules are unnecessary as many claim they already send notification warnings and give customers access to usage via webpages. Industry group CTIA also suggested that users may be made worse off be any regulations as carriers might choose to be merely compliant and not offer any additional information than required by regulations.