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FCC Taking Closer Look At Ridiculous Wireless Broadband Bills
Better education? Better user notification? More sophisticated tools?
by Karl Bode 01:10PM Tuesday May 11 2010
We've seen no limit of insane 3G bills incurred by people who don't understand the concept of overage penalties while in the States -- or the steep overages they can incur by taking their phone (or tethered laptop) overseas. In Europe, regulators have tackled this problem by passing rules that cap roaming fees between carriers. But the EU also recently passed laws requiring that carriers provide users with tools to help prevent their accounts from going apocalyptic.

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As of July 1, mobile broadband users in Europe must choose a maximum monthly cost they want to pay for mobile data. When they get close to 80% of that total, the carrier sends out a warning, then temporarily suspends the user's service when they reach their spending cap. If users don't choose a limit, a limit of $68 per month is set for them (that's data only, and doesn't include voice minutes or other bill totals).

It appears that the FCC was watching the EU's move with great interest. The agency today announced (pdf press release) that the FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB) is launching an initiative on "bill shock" that may include using similar tools to those being implemented in the EU:
Today the FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB) launched an initiative on "bill shock" -- the experience of getting an unexpectedly high wireless phone bill. The Bureau is seeking input on ways to alert consumers about potential high charges before they add up. One idea is a technical solution now used in Europe that could help consumers avoid this problem. "We are hearing from consumers about unpleasant surprises on their bills," said Gurin. "We've gotten hundreds of complaints about bill shock. But this is an avoidable problem. Avoiding bill shock is good for consumers and ultimately good business for wireless carriers as well."
The FCC is issuing a Public Notice looking for input from those of you who believe tougher rules should be in place and/or carriers could do a better job -- and those of you who believe people deserve everything they get if they can't decipher carrier pricing and fine print. This very announcement is likely designed to nudge carriers toward implementing some kind of voluntarily "notify and cutoff" system to help consumers -- in the hopes of avoiding mandatory regulation.

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Mr Matt

Eustis, FL
·Embarq Now Centu..

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The old wireless shell game!

Our economy has evolved into a state where the government allows wireless companies to play the old shell game, with the larger companies getting away with more abuses. Big wireless is to big to sanction. Our corrupt government has allowed big wireless to abuse customers by:
1) Requiring customers to sign incomprehensible contracts to obtain service and then requiring them to use biased binding arbitration if there is a dispute.
2) Big Wireless uses fear uncertainty and doubt (FUD) to intimidate customers into paying more than they need to for service. Charge $0.35 - $0.45 per minute for postpaid service for overages while charging prepaid customers $0.25 per minute 24/365. The salesmen will invariably weasel the customer into pay for a 1,500 minute plan for an additional $20.00 plus $4.00 in crap charges per month, when they never use more than 500 Peak Minutes per month.
3) When there is a family emergency hit the customer with a $500.00 Cell Phone Bill because they used 900 Minutes during the measurement period.
4) Wireless data service is a new frontier for raping, pillaging and gouging the customers finances. Wireless Carriers use confusion to defraud customers by not making the contracts clear and simple. When customers access the wireless carriers data network, the home page should include a text box showing the amount of data used during the measurement period and the date for the next usage measurement reset. The data downloaded to display the usage monitor to the customer should not be charged to the customers account for that measurement period.



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reply to old_dawg

Re: Sure

said by old_dawg:

Just have the nanny state get deeper into our lives. Maybe an IQ test should go along with that service contract?. ...
Would you abolish the SEC and FDIC? Just let companies and banks operate "full of surprises?" Leaving it to investors and depositors to figure it out?

Capitalism (markets) work best when there is transparency and predictability. That's why we have zoning laws and building codes.

Requiring informed consent when using a wireless provider is just more of the same.

If you wouldn't get rid of the above-mentioned "nanny-state" interventions in the "market," it's not clear why requiring overage limits goes too far.

If you would get rid of the above-mentioned (things we take for granted as part of ordered liberty and civil society), then you're part of the irrelevant fringe. Your views can be judged accordingly.




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reply to old_dawg

For those, who again promote anarchism = no rules and regulations. Please show me one country where this has actually worked for the well being of the people. We need regulations, that set the framework for fair competition. Otherwise, there is just anarchy.