Wireless Providers To Alert Users About Overage Charges

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A cure to the sort-of medical condition known as 'bill shock' - the reaction when a cell phone user realizes ghastly overage charges - is finally here. CTIA, the international wireless association representing wireless carriers, announced a plan today that will call for free alerts by wireless providers to consumers when they are likely to incur overage charges.

The agreement, an addition to an existing CTIA document called the Consumer Code for Wireless Service, will provide free alerts before and after subscribers reach their monthly limits on voice, data, and text. Notifications will also be sent to inform consumers of international roaming charges when traveling abroad, CTIA said in an announcement today.

'Bill shock' was the target of a Federal Communications Commission probe in May 2010 that set out to investigate and resolve unexpectedly high phone bills. Now the major U.S. carriers - covering 97 percent of mobile users - have voluntarily agreed to abide by the new requirements.

“Far too many Americans know what it’s like to open up their cell-phone bill and be shocked by hundreds or even thousands of dollars in unexpected fees and charges," President Barack Obama said in a statement. "Our phones shouldn’t cost us more than the monthly rent or mortgage."

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski called the decision a "victory" for consumers, saying the alerts will help subscribers save money on their monthly wireless bills. An earlier study by the FCC found that 30 million Americans, or one in six mobile users, have experienced bill shock - defined as a "sudden and unexpected increase in monthly bills that is not caused by a change in service plans." Of those who went over, 84 percent said they never received a warning when they neared the limit.

Image provided by Shutterstock and CREATISTA.

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  • Alert Specialist Says:

    Verizon strongly applauded the FCC's "Bill-Shock" guidelines, but is being very deceptive. Verizon will use the establishing of overage alerts as another ploy to spam customers with offers and misuse privacy. By setting up alerts, Verizon will probably require that the customer opt-out of privacy of the user behavior. Verizon has had three ways of trying circumvent privacy standards of phone numbers and the net neutrality for data. Firstly, Verizon has sent out notices to opt-out of their policy to disclose CPNI, network information, to affiliates including agents. CPNI as mandated by state utility commissions is automatically an opt-in, and the carrier has to get written notice from the customer to opt-in. The CPNI standard is not to opt-out of disclosing network information. Secondly, Verizon has now replaced the CPNI notices with a non-specific notification to opt-out of Verizon's policy to disclose account information and billing to third parties. Verizon states that the disclosed information will not include names. If the customer does not call or go online to myVerizon.com, Verizon states that the customer will be automatically opt-in to releasing account information. Thirdly, Verizon's history of usage alerts such as on the Pantech LTE dongles has been heavy spam. The usage alerts become emails loaded with 25 MBs of device photos that gobble up the customer's allotted gigabytes. Also, the so-called VZAM is just another tactic that is self-serving to Verizon. The VZAM's tab for Usage Analysis does not take the customer to billing but instead opens the myVerizon Website to consume several hundred MBs. The VZAM also has a tab for Boingo locations that Verizon uses the customer's allotted gigabytes to update according to the customer's GPS behavior. And the VZAM is Smith Micro software that specializes in gaming. Smith Micro gobbles up more MBs with so-called network updates that are actually gaming, media and entertainment including Microsoft Live and Xbox. The bottom line is that Verizon downloads consume about a half gigabyte monthly without consent by the customer.

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