In October 2011, the FCC and the nation’s major wireless providers agreed to put systems in place that would alert subscribers when they neared and passed their plans’ thresholds for things like calling minutes, texts, data, and international roaming. Per the agreement, all the providers were supposed to have all their alerts in place by today. So did everyone finish on time?
According to the FCC’s most recently updated list, it looks like a big yes.
With the exception the categories where the provider either doesn’t offer the service or only offers unlimited service, each of the 10 providers — representing about 97% of U.S. wireless customers — say they now have alerts covering all the usual ways customers can unexpectedly end up with sky-high bills.
The purpose of the alerts is to cut down on incidents where people don’t know they’ve talked too long, texted too many times, or — worst of all — that they’ve been roaming internationally, like the U.S. Airman who racked up a $16,000 wireless bill while stationed in Guam (even though it’s a U.S. territory).
Studies show that 30 million American — 1-in-6 wireless users — has experienced some sort of bill shock in the past.
“This milestone is a clear win for consumers,” said outgoing FCC Chair Julius Genachowski. “These text alerts will allow consumers to enjoy the benefits of mobile without unexpected hits to their wallets.”
Delara Derakhshani, policy counsel for Consumers Union, said, “We’re pleased that companies are reporting that they’re living up to this agreement, and we’re going to keep monitoring how they are performing and asking consumers what they think as well. For years, we heard horror stories from people hit with hundreds, even thousands, of dollars in surprise charges on a single bill. Today we’re glad that more people are getting better tools to avoid bill shock. We will remain vigilant in ensuring this agreement works as promised for all consumers and that those who could be most vulnerable to bill shock and cramming, such as consumers in lower income communities and communities of color, are benefiting from the alerts.”
We were a little worried back in October, when major carriers like AT&T, Sprint, & T-Mobile appeared to be lagging behind in instituting all the needed alerts, so it’s good to see that everyone made the cut-off.