In response to growing consumer concern regarding cell phone overages or “bill shock,” the FCC has proposed mandates on wireless carriers to send warning texts when a user is about to reach their limit for voice, text and data.
“We are hearing from consumers about unpleasant surprises on their bills,” said Joel Gurin, chief of the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, in a public notice. “We’ve gotten hundreds of complaints about bill shock. But this is an avoidable problem. Avoiding bill shock is good for consumers and ultimately good business for wireless carriers as well.” The FCC said its inquiry is one of the first initiatives undertaken by its consumer task force, launched in January by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and chaired by Joel Gurin.
The proposed mandate wouldn’t necessarily impose a substantial impact on carriers, as most already have methods for users to check their limits, but forcing them to send SMS messages on their own accord would likely face opposition from most carriers.
Some are already under the opinion that this would represent unnecessary regulation, though some carriers may embrace it as a service, perhaps with a price tag that may be favorable for budget-savvy consumers. “I think consumers would love it,” said Kirk Parsons, a wireless analyst for J.D. Power and Associates. “It just happened to me, and it would have been nice if I was alerted that I was going over.”
The proposal comes after The European Commission mandated overage alerts last year and more recently imposed limits on how much carriers can charge for Internet access via mobile phones. Though our wireless ecosystem differs greatly from that of Europe, the same principals can be applied.
Still, some argue that the problem has been blown out of proportion, noting that the percentage of complaints against total wireless subscribers is extremely small. “Even though the ‘hundreds of complaints’ that the public notice references is less than four ten-thousandths of a percentage of the industry’s total subscribers, the industry strives to serve and provide all of our 285 million customers with the necessary tools to have a positive experience,” said Steve Largent, CEO and president of CTIA.