dslreports logo
site
spacer

spacer
 
   
spc
story category
CTIA: Carriers Haven't Been 'Sensitive' To Ridiculous 3G Bills
Still, industry obviously prefers the FCC let them gouge in peace
by Karl Bode 06:52PM Monday May 17 2010 Tipped by ptrowski See Profile
As we noted last week, the FCC has opened an inquiry into whether wireless carriers can do more to prevent what's become an endless flood of stories about users facing ridiculously-huge 3G bills. The problem is a combination of users who don't pay attention and carriers who have clearly not done enough in making their billing models clear enough to understand. Carriers say they already offer enough tools to consumers, and don't seem keen to embrace the EU idea of giving users the ability to set a monthly data usage cap they can't travel beyond.

Still, in an interview with CNET, CTIA President Steve Largent admits carriers could do better:
quote:
I don't know how I want to say this, but I guess you could say that the carriers may not have always been very sensitive to some of these billing issues. But I don't think they are sitting around hoping customers will run up a $10,000 bill. And often if customers go over some kind of limit, many carriers will alert the customer or call them. I think in general when issues are brought to the carrier community's attention, they respond.
Click for full size
While CNET asks the CTIA about an old EU restriction that would require a text message to be sent should users approach their cap (something some carriers do already), the website doesn't ask how carriers feel about allowing users to set a monthly data bill limit -- which would seem to be the pressing question in the face of the new (and seemingly reasonable) EU rules.

Meanwhile, Verizon has buckled after stories recently highlighted how a Boston-area retiree spent years trying to resolve an errant $18,000 phone bill. According to the Boston Globe, Verizon has agreed to forgive the man's bill -- though the problem continues to plague his credit report. These stories of carriers becoming miraculously altruistic only after the press highlights these absurd bills have become all -too common -- and it's something that clearly caught the FCC's attention.

The question now is whether carriers will voluntarily impose better consumer education and usage tools -- or whether the FCC will have to enact regulation forcing their hand. "Consumers are stupid so they deserve it" is not an excuse, unless your name is Gordon Gekko and humanism and empathy have become alien. While you can insist that only an idiot wouldn't read their contract, you can also argue that only an apathetic idiot would attempt to charge eighteen thousand dollars for a service worth at best a few hundred.

Something will be done about wireless data bills insanely out of line with actual costs, whether the world's Gekko's agree or not. The only question now is whether carriers volunteer change -- or whether they have change forced upon them.

view:
topics flat nest 

cfm117

join:2004-02-13
Woodland Hills, CA

The question should be

Is how far do companies(not just cell) have to go to accomodate customer stupidity and/or ignorance in cases like this. Maybe a tech should show up at your house personally to let u know you are approaching your cap.

Karl Bode
News Guy
join:2000-03-02
kudos:42

1 recommendation

Re: The question should be

Perhaps. But there's also stupidity involved in trying to charge a consumer EIGHTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS for a service that at best is worth a few hundred dollars. Again: "you're an idiot so you deserve to be fucked" is not a reasonable discourse, though I know it's as American as Apple pie and the Yankees.

DataRiker
Premium
join:2002-05-19
00000

2 edits
said by cfm117:

Is how far do companies(not just cell) have to go to accomodate customer stupidity and/or ignorance in cases like this. Maybe a tech should show up at your house personally to let u know you are approaching your cap.
No phone service bill should ever go over a few hundred dollars no matter what the customer does with the phone. Ever.

The phone should have been cut off, before it ever came to this.
openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
Germany
kudos:2

Re: The question should be

I can only imagine the outcry and lawsuits that would be brought if carriers start cutting off service after x amount of usage.

DataRiker
Premium
join:2002-05-19
00000

Re: The question should be

said by openbox9:

I can only imagine the outcry and lawsuits that would be brought if carriers start cutting off service after x amount of usage.
Obviously this would only happen if something was seriously amiss.

I can't believe I actually have to explain that part...
openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
Germany
kudos:2

Re: The question should be

I don't believe it as obvious as you allude to. Have you not read about some of the ludicrous civil suits? I have no problem imagining lawsuit filings if carriers began disabling their customers' services after x amount of usage.

jmn1207
Premium
join:2000-07-19
Ashburn, VA
kudos:1

Re: The question should be

Credit card companies are able to deny a seemingly wayward purchase, and you might have to call the bank to verify that everything is on the up and up. I have had this occur when attempting to buy something overseas, and it was inconvenient, but nowhere near as potentially devastating as being liable for a multi-thousand dollar bill. There must be some method to prevent a customer from running up charges that greatly exceeds an average monthly bill.

Has Visa been ruined because they occasionally deny a charge that seems onerous or otherwise out of place?

DataRiker
Premium
join:2002-05-19
00000
said by openbox9:

I don't believe it as obvious as you allude to. Have you not read about some of the ludicrous civil suits? I have no problem imagining lawsuit filings if carriers began disabling their customers' services after x amount of usage.
Yes it really is that obvious. Credit card companies do it all the time, as well as others I'm sure.

88615298
Premium
join:2004-07-28
West Tenness
said by cfm117:

Is how far do companies(not just cell) have to go to accomodate customer stupidity and/or ignorance in cases like this. Maybe a tech should show up at your house personally to let u know you are approaching your cap.
The simple fact is one could use a TERRAbyte of data in a month and that wouldn't cost the cell company $18,000. So yes I understand the need for overage fees, but there should be a limit. Trust me if someone got a $500 overage bill they would stop doing that. Also if cell companies were really concerned about customers using too much data they would simply SHUT IT OFF if they were using to much.

SpellingNazi

@charter.com

Re: The question should be

said by 88615298:

could use a TERRAbyte of data
Terabyte. At least *try* to sound informed.

88615298
Premium
join:2004-07-28
West Tenness

Re: The question should be

said by SpellingNazi :

said by 88615298:

could use a TERRAbyte of data
Terabyte. At least *try* to sound informed.
Oh sorry I accidentally added an extra R. Please is that the best you've got? Hitting the R key twice makes me uninformed? Truly that's it? That's your beef?
Skippy25

join:2000-09-13
Hazelwood, MO
Really? The entire judicial system is tied up with cases about companies not doing enough to serve the "stupid".

Hot coffee
Reflectors on bikes
Metal rails on highways

Right or wrong does not matter any more. It is now, can we win and how much?

In this case I would 100% agree with the customer on this. This is without a question gouging at it's finest.

Rob Hond

join:2001-06-06
1503ta

2 edits
said by cfm117:

Is how far do companies(not just cell) have to go to accomodate customer stupidity
Considering the fact that technically as costwise it's no problem for companies to offer the tools to set a limit, at least the suspicion is justified that they deny their customers these tools, in order to pluck them as much as they can. So the question is: shouldn't trustfull customers be protected by law against these shark- companies... Throwing the trustful before the sharks, without any protection is not my idea of free enterprise. It's imposing the law of the jungle instead....

Rob Hond (the Netherlands)
bumwolf

join:2007-04-21
Florence, AL
If bandwidth is the problem maybe the cell carriers should look at satellite as an example. Satellite you have a rolling daily limit. Average 200mb low end 500mb high end. Hit your limit they cut you off for 24 hours. Cell carriers should do the same though maybe a higher daily limit. Would be more fair than charging thousands of dollars for bandwidth. Crap like this is why I stick with satellite although I can get 3G where I live.
--
Hughesnet | HN7000s | Pro Plus Package | Windows 7 | 1 Watt Transmitter | .74m Dish | 89 West 1070 MHz | Software V. 5.8.0.72 | 5yrs Customer
TechWhiz

join:2004-10-30
Phoenix, AZ

One change could help...

$xx/MB --> $xx/GB

Example:
$15/MB (T-Mobile intl roaming) --> $15/GB

It'd still be pretty high, but it needs to start somewhere.

Ben
Premium
join:2007-06-17
Glen Carbon, IL

Customer Responsibility, but that's only part of it.

     Any customer who signs up for the service should thoroughly understand whatever it is they're signing before they sign their John Hancock by the X.  This includes overage charges, if any as well as what may trigger such charges.

     They should take a step back, stop admiring whatever is so cool about some gadget, and make sure they understand the contract terms!  They also need to remember that even if the salesman may wish to make you feel otherwise, the customer can take as long as he wants before signing the contract, asking as many questions as he wants.

     I suspect that this is the result of people being "taken in" by the coolness of whatever gadget it is, failing to ask the right questions, and then they don't know certain things.  One good example of this is the extremely high price of International data.  Another good example is the "usage meter," and how to use it.

     Why do I say "Only a part of it" in the subject line?  I say that if the usage meter is inaccurate, but hopefully that won't be a problem...

RARPSL

join:1999-12-08
Suffern, NY

Re: Customer Responsibility, but that's only part of it.

said by Ben:

     I suspect that this is the result of people being "taken in" by the coolness of whatever gadget it is, failing to ask the right questions, and then they don't know certain things.
In some cases it is NOT the user's fault. In the past few days (I think here) I read about an iPhone user who blew through his full data package while the phone was not in use (it was powered on but in sleep mode). The problem was that one of the applications had an open connection and was running in the background (it did not respect the fact that the phone had been put into sleep mode) and was doing constant updates overnight (ie: When the user reactivated it the next morning he found "you are getting close to your limit" and "your account has been shut down due to exceeding your limit" messages and a deactivated phone).

That Figures

@charter.com

Re: Customer Responsibility, but that's only part of it.

So? The fact that the user is running non-Apple-authorized apps on his phone, and they went berserk and gobbled up his data allowance for the month, is somehow AT&T's or Apple's fault?

88615298
Premium
join:2004-07-28
West Tenness
said by Ben:

     Any customer who signs up for the service should thoroughly understand whatever it is they're signing before they sign their John Hancock by the X.  This includes overage charges, if any as well as what may trigger such charges.
Makes it hard when these companies put usage in unrealistic terms. For example Verizon says you get 5 GB then say you are going to be charged 5 cents per MB if you go over. Most people do not know a GB is 1000 times more than a MB. Verizon doesn't make it any easier when they brag about all the stuff you can supposedly do. Very few people are going to know streaming something from Hulu is going to eat up your cap very quickly.

5 GB is a joke. $50 per GB overage is a joke. And saying overages are "5 cents per MB" is hardly a way of stating something if you want to DISCOURAGE using too much data" stating it as "$51.20 per GB" would have a discouraging affect. Espeically if they would state downloading a SD movie form Itunes is typically 2 GB. If you state caps in GBs then state your overage charges in GBs. Also we all know they could charge $1 per GB overage and still make money.
LastSurvivor

join:2008-01-02
Toledo, OH

I can see it now...

They have a chance to turn this into a service. I can see it now:

Tired going over your spending limit? Wish you can set a limit to your cell phone bill? Now you can! For a fee*, you can set your cell phone limit and when that limit is reached, we'll send you a Text message and/or automate phone call letting you know this. You can even stop at the limit as well. So no worries about ridiculous bills.

I can see providers setting up a way for users to curb their over spending, and making some money on it. Granted they may not make as much, but if they do it right, they could. The benefit would be more income from helping the 'stupid' people; keeping off any government intervention (you know it will be coming if nothing is done); and may make more money (how many customers are going overboard anyway?) even from users who may never go over.

Hell I would set it up just to irk the competition. Come to my network and never worry about those ridiculous bills again!

* fees can vary, see your local representative for more details.

AbBaZaBbA
Premium
join:2002-07-10
Wildomar, CA
kudos:4

Re: I can see it now...

said by LastSurvivor:

They have a chance to turn this into a service. I can see it now:

Tired going over your spending limit? Wish you can set a limit to your cell phone bill? Now you can! For a fee*, you can set your cell phone limit and when that limit is reached, we'll send you a Text message and/or automate phone call letting you know this. You can even stop at the limit as well. So no worries about ridiculous bills.

I can see providers setting up a way for users to curb their over spending, and making some money on it. Granted they may not make as much, but if they do it right, they could. The benefit would be more income from helping the 'stupid' people; keeping off any government intervention (you know it will be coming if nothing is done); and may make more money (how many customers are going overboard anyway?) even from users who may never go over.

Hell I would set it up just to irk the competition. Come to my network and never worry about those ridiculous bills again!

* fees can vary, see your local representative for more details.
No this won't fix the problem at all. The type of users who have these problems usually don't understand their plans at all. I doubt they would understand the need to sign up for an optional service to alert them.

Any fix to this problem would need to apply to everyone and then allow customers to opt-out if they wish.
alana

join:2009-10-20
Crystal Lake, IL

Re: I can see it now...

US Cellular has this service now to alert you if you are close to going over your minutes. I don't know about for a data plan as I don't have one.

The service is free.
ShellMMG

join:2009-04-16
Grass Lake, MI
Reviews:
·Frontier Communi..

1 edit

Has it happened yet?

What I'm waiting for is a wireless provider to forgive a debt -- such as the $18,000 obscenity -- and then file a "debt forgiveness" form for the IRS. That money would be taxed as if a credit card had forgiven a huge balance.

Insult to injury, but it IS the IRS.

AbBaZaBbA
Premium
join:2002-07-10
Wildomar, CA
kudos:4

1 edit

Re: Has it happened yet?

said by ShellMMG:

What I'm waiting for is a wireless provider to forgive a debt -- such as the $18,000 obscenity -- and then file a "debt forgiveness" form for the IRS. That money would be taxed as if a credit card had forgiven a huge balance.

Insult to injury, but it IS the IRS.
or they could just adjust the bill and retroactively enroll them in an unlimited data plan.

let's face it if they got to the point where they were willing to forgive the debt they don't wan't the user to have to pay the irs that would just be more bad press for them.
jfmezei
Premium
join:2007-01-03
Pointe-Claire, QC
kudos:23

The fault lies with the wireless carriers

It is all about advertising. Their ads make people think that mobile data is fast , affordable and unlimited. This is what people think they are getting when they choose a package and don't read the very fine print to realise that they are gettingf something that is absolutely inferior/different to those advertised plans.

Drug manufacturers are now forced to include warnings such as "may cause projectile vomiting, impotence, green skin and shinkage of testicules". Wireless carriers should be forced to include warnings such as "you must read the fine print because actual packages differ signifiacntly from the advertised ones and may result in enourmous bills that could force subscriber into bankrupcy".

pnh102
Reptiles Are Cuddly And Pretty
Premium
join:2002-05-02
Mount Airy, MD

Carriers Should Change For Their Own Good

Forget just being nice to people by cutting them off before they rack up an $18k tab, I would imagine after forgiving enough of these bills, and losing all the money associated with them, that carriers would find their own way to simply cut off usage for a subscriber after he reaches a preset spending limit.
--
"Net Neutrality" zealots - the people you can thank for your capped Internet service.
SkyDude

join:2000-11-19
Raynham, MA

Credit Cards Do It

Most credit cards have a limit. When you reach the limit, your card gets declined.

Phone carriers are extending credit so why can't they institute credit limits?

Seems easy to me but what do I know.
PeterPiper2

join:2010-06-18
Albuquerque, NM

Re: Carriers Haven't Been 'Sensitive' To Ridiculous 3G Bills

I got Cricket broadband about a month and a half ago and was dismayed when, after about ten days, (during which I watched 1-2 half hour shows on Hulu), my broadband speed was abruptly cut from about 1 Mbps to about 100 kbps, approximately a 90% reduction in speed. 100kbps is pretty slow, about 2x faster than a dial-up modem. But the really annoying thing is that was done with no notification whatsoever. No emails saying, "due to excessive usage, we have cut down your speed to xxx . It will be restored as of xx/xx/xx date" Nothing like that at all.

I thought that this was pretty bad service -- until I read all these reports of $20,000 overages! Now I realize that a carrier that cuts your speed down to a bare minimum is still FAR better than one that lets you rack up a bill the size of a years worth of college tuition and then makes you fight with them for years, wrecking your credit rating, etc.

In spite of all the complaints about Cricket (including many from me!) their policy is much more benevolent. They actually do give you unlimited service (albeit at a very slow speed after you hit the 5GB cap).