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.