Consumers Union To Wireless Providers: Don't Wait To Implement "Bill Shock" Alerts

A couple weeks ago, details were announced about the Wireless Consumer Usage Notification Guidelines, which give wireless providers one year to roll out a system that lets customers know when they are nearing or over their allotted data, text, voice or international roaming limits. But our cohorts at Consumers Union are urging these companies to not wait until the last minute.

CU sent letters to 11 wireless providers, all of whom signed the agreement and who together represent 93% of the wireless market — Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile USA, Sprint, US Cellular, Cellcom, Cellular One of NE Arizona, Clearwire, Illinois Valley Cellular, SouthernLINC Wireless and Unicel.

In the letters, each company is asked about its respective plans for complying with the new code of conduct, as well as additional details about how each alert will be implemented and when.

Some letters ask for clarifications to existing policies. For example, CU’s letter to Verizon asks the company to explain its current policy for alerts, citing unclear information on its web site. It also cites a recent Consumer Reports story by an editor who did not receive any alerts from Verizon before exceeding his plan’s limits, despite the company’s statement that it “strives” to provide these alerts.

“We know that some carriers are already providing certain alerts, and we see this as proof that it’s possible for consumers to begin receiving these free alerts now, rather than a year from now,” said Parul P. Desai, policy counsel for Consumers Union. “Unfortunately, current alert policies vary widely across companies and often times aren’t even clearly disclosed by wireless providers. We are simply asking wireless companies to make clear what tools consumers have available to them now, and urging them to comply with this new policy sooner rather than later.”

Adds Desai, “In the spirit of cooperation that helped bring about this important agreement, we urge the participating wireless companies to make current alert policies as plain and clear as possible so consumers can benefit from them immediately.”