The Federal Communications Commission’s newest initiative doesn’t involve making phone calls clearer; it’s about making phone bills themselves easier to understand.
FCC voted Thursday to move forward on its proposal to limit “bill shock,” a term for surprising, often hidden, or unknown charges customers discover on their monthly phone bills, The Washington Post reports.
The phenomenon is apparently widespread. PC magazine reports an FCC-commissioned study found that nearly 30 million cellphone users had experienced bill shock.
But wireless industry groups, who have not greeted FCC’s plans with “open arms,” disputed that study, according to PC.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski told Politico one of the key solutions is providing customers more information about often-arcane billing practices.
Ways to increase customer awareness include: alerting customers when monthly limits of data use, calls or texts are nearing; being more upfront about international roaming charges; and making it easier for customers to check their monthly use amounts.
“It’s hard for me to see how anyone can oppose giving consumers what they need in a timely way,” Genachowski told Politico.
But Republican FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker said new FCC regulations might be unfair to smaller wireless companies.
“Upgrades to billing services may be expensive and burdensome for smaller carriers and prepaid providers,” she said, according to The Post.
FCC’s plans come as cellphone-billing practices have recently come under scrutiny. Verizon Wireless admitted earlier this month it had overcharged some 15 million customers for data use.