The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed new rules that would require cell phone providers to provide usage alerts and related information to assist consumers in avoiding unexpected charges on their bills. The proposed rules would give consumers alerts, tools, and information to assist them in making decisions about their cell phone plans.
The FCC stated that cell phone “bill shock” is a growing concern for consumers. According to an April-May 2010 FCC survey, 30 million Americans, one in six cell phone users, have experienced “bill shock.” The FCC is proposing rules that would require cell phone companies to provide consumers with simple alerts both before and when they incur overages. The FCC proposes that consumers be provided with basic information that would allow them to control their cell phone costs.
Some of the provisions of the proposed rules include:
- Overr-the-Limit Alerts: The FCC’s proposed rules would require customer notification, such as voice or text alerts, when the customer approaches and reaches monthly limits that will result in overage charges.
- Out-of-the-Country Alerts: The FCC’s proposed rules would require cell phone providers to notify customers when they are about to incur international or other roaming charges that are not covered by their monthly plans, and if they will be charged at higher-than-normal rates. This has been a particular problem in the United States Virgin Islands due to its close proximity with the British Virgin Islands.
- Easy-to-Find Tools: The FCC’s proposed rules would require clear disclosure of any tools offered by cell phone providers to set usage limits or review usage balances. The FCC is also asking for comment on whether all carriers should be required to offer the option of capping usage based on limits set by the consumer.
The notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) also seeks comment on whether smaller providers and/or prepaid services should be exempted from these requirements or allowed additional time to implement them. Comments are due 30 days after the publication of the NPRM in the Federal Register and reply comments are due 60 days after publication.