FCC Calls For Plan To Reduce Wireless 'Bill Shock'

Specifically, the FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB) is developing an awareness plan that aims to keep mobile phone users informed about why they incur the high charges on their mobile phone with better and more accessible information. The goal is to notify users on a regular basis about why and how much they're being charged so they can make informed decisions about their cell phone use.

Federal officials say that diminishing bill shock will ultimately lead to higher customer satisfaction rates and overall better business for wireless carriers.

"We are hearing from consumers about unpleasant surprise on their bills," said Joel Gurin, head of the FCC's CGB. "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 and wireless carriers as well."

Gurin said that often mobile phone users expect a flat monthly bill only to find that they have incurred excessive charges due to hidden fees, roaming and data charges and misleading advertising, which inevitably leads to a barrage of irate phone calls to the FCC's CGB.

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In its latest attempt to field the multitude of complaints from unhappy wireless users, the FCC began asking for public comments Tuesday to help devise a solution.

One of the proposed antidotes the FCC is currently considering includes requiring wireless companies to alert customers before they incur exorbitant charges on their cell phone bills. Among other things, the FCC asked consumers about the differences between U.S. and European providers that have kept them from issuing bill alerts similar to those required by the European Union. The federal agency also asked to what extent a consumer alert system would be possible, and how information can be made accessible to users with disabilities.

The proposed changes would directly affect mobile carriers such as AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel, and T-Mobile.

A wireless industry's trade group said that all four of carriers provide their customers the option of checking their charges by calling a toll free number, but failed to comment further on the matter, Reuters reported.