FCC plans cure for shock phone bills

The US Federal Communications Commission is concerned that telcos are walloping too many customers with “bill shock”.

Bill shock is what happens when a punter is unaware that they have talked over the call limit and get hit by so many extra fees that they have to sell their children for medical experiments to pay the bill.

The FCC is today expected to propose a controversial rule that would require wireless providers to notify customers when they’re in danger of incurring overage charges.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said that bill-shock was a real problem to families trying to meet a monthly budget.

According to USA Today, more than 30 million people have complained that they have been surprised by extra fees on their monthly bills, the FCC found in a survey in spring.

Additional charges could be as high as $50 or more. Then there is the small matter of the extra phone bill which needs to be paid. This can be steep if you were dumb enough to try and send an SMS about how wonderful the Colosseum is to your neighbours in Utah.

The FCC wants companies to send a voice or text alert to customers as they approach the monthly usage limits in their subscription plans.

Providers also would have to warn subscribers when calls would incur roaming charges.

Mobile phone outfits said that the rules are unnecessary. Providers already send text alerts and have websites that enable consumers to see when they’re in danger of racking up additional charges.

They claim that the rules might mean that consumers might end up with less information as they might decide to just do what’s needed to comply with the regulation. After all, being nice to customers never got any telco executive a bonus.