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.
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.