Bill shock worse scourge than thought: FCC

Tony Poulos
22 Jul 2010

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently released the findings of an agency survey on the consumer mobile experience. The survey indicated that 30 million Americans, or one in six mobile users, have experienced "bill shock," a sudden increase in their monthly bill that is not caused by a change in service plan. It also showed that nearly half of mobile phone users who have plans with early termination fees (ETFs) and almost two-thirds of home broadband users with ETFs didn't know the amount of the fees they were accountable for.

The FCC has been proactively working to clear up consumer confusion surrounding bill shock, ETFs and other issues. Last August, the Commission launched a proceeding to examine ways to empower consumers to make smart, informed decisions when it comes to communications services.

In January 2010, the Chiefs of the FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs and Wireless Telecommunications Bureaus sent letters to the major wireless carriers to learn more about their early termination fees. And as one of the first initiatives undertaken by the FCC's Consumer Task Force, in early May the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau released a Public Notice asking about possible solutions for bill shock.

The survey supported the agency's efforts by supplying essential data about the consumer experience. The survey noted that 83% of adults in the US have a mobile phone, and 80% have a personal mobile phone (one for which their employer does not pay the bill). It also asked about coverage with 58% of mobile users saying they were very satisfied with the number of places they could get a good signal.

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