30 Million Americans Shocked When Opening Mobile Phone Bills: FCC

The FCC said the survey could be a wake-up call to consumers to carefully scrutinize their mobile phone contracts before signing, and offered tips on ways to keep from being surprised.

The FCC on Wednesday estimated that 30 million Americans experienced bill shock, or a surprise sudden increase in their mobile phone bill unrelated to changing service plans.

The findings were based on a survey of 3,005 U.S. adults taken late last month.

The FCC found that over a third of consumers who experienced bill shock found increases of at least $50, while 23 percent reported increases of $100 or more.

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About 84 percent of those consumers reporting bill shock said their mobile carrier did not contact them when they were about to exceed the number of minutes, text message, or downloads allowed by their plans, while 88 percent said their carriers did not contact them after a sudden increase in their bills.

When asked whether their contracts included early termination fees, about 54 percent of personal cell phone users in the survey said they would have to pay such fees, while 18 percent said they did not know, the FCC said.

Of those consumers subject to early termination fees, 43 percent said they would expect to pay $150 or more, while 47 percent said they did not know how much. Only 36 percent of personal cell phone users said they were “very clear” about the fees.

The FCC also offered consumers tips on how to reduce the shock of early termination fees.

It reminded consumers to be aware of such fees before signing a contract, to ask about whether those fees are prorated or not, to consider paying full price for a mobile phone to avoid the possibility of such a fee altogether, and to think twice before making a change to a contract which could restart the early termination fee time period.