Wireless Customers To Receive Free Text Alerts To Avoid Overage Charges

After months of talking about the issue, the FCC and the nation’s wireless providers have announced a deal that will provide almost every wireless customer in the country with free text alerts to help them avoid “bill shock” from unexpected overage charges.

The “Wireless Consumer Usage Notification Guidelines” declare that alerts will be sent out both before and after subscribers reach monthly limits on voice, data and text plans.

But wait — there’s more. Customers will also receive alerts regarding international roaming charges when traveling abroad. Subscribers will be covered by this plan unless they opt-out.

In terms of a schedule for rolling out these alerts, wireless providers have exactly one year from today to provide customers with at least two out of the four notifications for data, voice, text and international roaming. All of these alerts must be in place by April 17, 2013.

Parul P. Desai, Policy Counsel for Consumers Union, says:

Consumers have been telling us about ‘bill shock’ for a long time, and we’ve been pushing for reforms to crack down on the problem. We’re encouraged that the industry is offering to provide free alerts to help customers avoid ‘bill shock,’ and we urge them to do it as quickly as possible. Some companies are already providing free alerts, while others are charging extra fees for them, and we think it’s possible – and consumers deserve – to immediately receive free alerts to avoid overage charges. We’re going to work closely with the FCC to make sure companies comply, and we’re pleased the Commission is keeping this proceeding open to help ensure compliance. Ultimately, this is about helping people protect their pocketbooks, so we applaud the FCC and the industry for this effort to do right by consumers.

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. mauispiderweb says:

    This is great news.

  2. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I’m thrilled about this – but shocked at the length of time the providers get to complete this.

  3. Jules Noctambule says:

    There now, wireless companies — was that really so hard? Of course, now you’ll have to think of newer, more inventive ways to get people’s money without doing much work!

    • Graymalkin56 says:

      They’ll just levy a $10 monthly charge to process your payment, whether it be by credit card, debit card, or check.

      • Jules Noctambule says:

        You’re probably spot-on; that, or they’ll levy a ‘user information fee’ or something equally ridiculous.

  4. The_Legend says:

    When the FCC is down to just a few carriers, it gets pretty easy to make a deal.

  5. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    AT&T has been doing this on my account for a while, but its good to see that they’re all agreeing to it finally.

    • jefeloco says:

      That’s almost exactly what I was thinking about At&t. The alerts don’t always mesh with my data used (according to the website and CSRs) but it’s nice that they send them when I get close.

  6. r-nice says:

    Well it’s about time. This should’ve been in place from the beginning.

    • Phil Keeps It Real [Consumerist] says:

      But then how else would they have had another method of caking off of you ?!?! Silly rabbit…

  7. The Twilight Clone says:

    So the text message itself is free — but how long until we see another $1.37 on the bill for “user notification fee?”

    • jessjj347 says:

      Exactly. “Subscribers will be covered by this plan unless they opt-out. ” makes come to the same conclusion as well.

    • kc2idf says:

      If $1.37 a month is all it will cost me to prevent a surprise of tens to thousands, sometimes even tens of thousands of dollars, sign me up. They could have sold this and I would have bought gladly.

  8. HSVhockey says:

    Very happy about this. Lets just see how long it takes for them to start having “unforeseen difficulties” with the alert system.

  9. NarcolepticGirl says:

    one year? that’s quite a long time.

    Verizon already does this. And someone said AT&T does too.
    T-Mobile?

    • OccasionallyOpinionated says:

      Verizon already does this? Do you have to sign up for it? I went over minutes last month and got no notification.

    • kewpie says:

      Verizon is only doing this sometimes on some accounts. They didn’t do it at all until recently, so I suspect it is being rolled out with some getting the service earlier than others.

    • shinazzle23 says:

      “Family Allowances lets you set up monthly allowances for phone usage, minutes, messages, and downloads. It is easy to set and change limits straight from the Web… $4.99 per month”

  10. jessjj347 says:

    “In terms of a schedule for rolling out these alerts, wireless providers have exactly one year from today to provide customers with at least two out of the four notifications for data, voice, text and international roaming.”

    So that means the companies will make a choice about which “overage” charges make the most money, should the customer not be alerted about them. Then they will choose to support the 2 notifications that will have the smallest negative financial impact.

    My guess is that they will choose not to do the notifications about texting, since that’s such a cash cow. The one notification they will likely implement is voice if I had to pick one…

  11. tiz says:

    just move to Canada, we’ve had this for years.

  12. evilpete says:

    now of Banks would do this *BEFORE* slaming you with 100 overdraft fees.

    • Omali says:

      i dunno. You should be checking your bank account every day, or do what I did and simply not opt into overdraft protection, so any attempt to charge that would overdraft would be bounced. It’s not the same as checking your usage, because my bank updates almost immediately (except Sundays), but Verizon has gone almost a week to update my usage.

  13. JonathanR says:

    I got 1 of these when I traveled to Canada as soon as I landed, which I actually sent you a tip about.

  14. Jevia says:

    I think this is great. Even when you happen to sign up for an international plan for vacation, the customer service reps rarely tell you all the charges or how they are calculated.

    I did so for a recent trip to canada, signing up both for international call ability and international data plan. I had no idea I was still going to pay .50 per test message. I had no idea exactly how much data is used whenever I use my phone to check the weather or check the news that is included in the 2GB of data (supposedly included in the monthly fee), so I got charged for bunch of additional kilobytes of data.

    Fortunately, my cell phone bill was still relatively reasonable (i.e. it was only a few hundred, not the thousands I see), but it still would have been nice to know these charges were coming.

  15. AdamBueller says:

    this would have been awesome to have been in place before T-Mobile charged me $400 in one month because of overage charges on a messaging plan that, despite telling them from the beginning I had to have, I aparrently did not have. And of course, not a single thing they could/wanted to do about it and would not budge an inch regarding the situation. So now my credit will have a huge black eye because I will not pay that kind of money for someone else’s mistake and a company’s unwillingness to correct their actions.

  16. AdamBueller says:

    this would have been awesome to have been in place before T-Mobile charged me $400 in one month because of overage charges on a messaging plan that, despite telling them from the beginning I had to have, I aparrently did not have. And of course, not a single thing they could/wanted to do about it and would not budge an inch regarding the situation. So now my credit will have a huge black eye because I will not pay that kind of money for someone else’s mistake and a company’s unwillingness to correct their actions.

  17. dush says:

    What we simply need is a reliable meter for all our usage; something fills or drains percentage wise as you use data/texts/minutes/etc.
    That way you can see real time what you are doing rather than getting some alert only when you’re almost out of allowance.

  18. IgnoramusEtIgnorabimus says:

    how much will the sms warning me that i reached my last message and this one is much much more cost in and of itself? is verizon going to pull a boa and the first sms over will be equivalent to the 1000s of sms missed combined into one fee?

    • scottd34 says:

      verizons sms alerts do not count toward the message cap, says it right in the message. cant comment on other carriers tho.

  19. Exceptional Vampire Does Not Sparkle says:

    I think the question is…. Why didn’t they stretch it out longer so they could make more money charging people from streaming too many *cough* videos *cough*

  20. kewpie says:

    This is fabulous news! I actually filed a complaint with the FCC about this very issue. It’s unfortunately the have so much time before they have to comply, however.

  21. homehome says:

    I know that every carrier has it set up that you can check your usage from your phone and online, I don’t know why ppl don’t use this. Are ppl just getting that lazy. And seriously do ppl think you can use your phone in another country and have the same rates? I thought it was common knowledge you’d have international rates.

    • IgnoramusEtIgnorabimus says:

      if you can go through a few hundred smss a day, you tend to forget to check them religiously, the out of country service is often problematic due to things like updates running in the background

  22. scottd34 says:

    verizon has been doing this for a while now…

  23. kbsparky says:

    Verizon does NOT already do this. 2 months ago, my bill came thru DOUBLE what it usually is.

    Calling them to complain about it was as useless as talking to a brick wall.

    That is until I reminded them that I had 500 “bonus” minutes available that were unused.

    Had to escalate the issue to another level before someone with half a brain looked at my account and acknowledged that I indeed had unused bonus minutes available to offset the overage.

    That high bill came down to normal once those bonus minutes were applied….

    • kbsparky says:

      I never received any notification that my minutes were used up. Only found out about it after I read the bill …

  24. rah0180 says:

    I do not understand why it is so difficult for people to monitor their own usage instead of demanding that someone else do it for them. To me it is just another example of people putting the responsibility on someone else. In my almost 10 years of having my own cell phone plan I have only been charged overages a handful of times and when I was I expected it, i.e. a cruise down to Mexico and in my early days of text messaging going over my allotted 500 messages. Maybe I am the odd man out and does not want everything done for me.

  25. Peggee is deeply offended by impetulant, pernicious little snots disrespecting her and violating her personal space at Best Buy. says:

    Oh, God, no, not moar regulation. /s

    I’m wondering what’s to stop them from sending a huge bill anyway. I mean, say the text comes out automatically when you’re within x minutes or MB of your limit. So you stop using the phone to avoid going over. Then you get your bill and it’s still 3K; can’t they just say, “We sent the text, but you still streamed data for 12 hours a day after that.” You still can’t prove a bogus charge.

  26. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Prepaid for the win! At least until I can afford anything else….