Will Cellular Billing Regulation Resolve Billing Issues?

by The Smarter Wallet on July 12, 2010

We’ve got the government stepping in to regulate a lot of the credit card industry (recall the age of tighter credit), the banking industry and even debt collectors and their practices. They’re stepping in to take a look at cell phone carriers now.

In a surprising move by the FCC, regulators are pushing forward some proposals that would require cellular telephone carriers to begin notifying customers of charges that exceed their plan limits. What? Yep, you guys heard it right. The Federal Trade Commission wants to hold cell carriers’ feet to the fire when it comes to passing unbelievable monthly bills to their customers.

What’s even more amazing is that the FCC wants our opinion about the new proposals.

It looks like our thinly veiled plan to inundate the FCC with all those complaints about outrageous cell phone bills has finally caught somebody’s attention. In a statement released some time in the not so distant past, the FCC has claimed to have received hundreds of complaints when it comes to consumers who have been stuck with outrageous cell phone bills due to extra charges such as roaming, text messaging, and data usage and feel like it’s now high time to do something about it.

Carrier’s Position

Previously, cellular carriers have always ducked under the legal radar on this one since all that fine print they stick into their contracts cover the fact that we’re supposed to know a few things: when we’ve moved out of our coverage area and start roaming; whether or not we have text messaging or data plans; whether we should expect to be duly billed for said services. But the truth of the matter is, most people don’t read the fine print and, unless the sales rep tells them about the surcharges, many are ignorant about the huge bills that such services can generate if these aren’t included in their plans.

My Position

Now, I am a huge stickler for personal responsibility when it comes to having to pay “stupid tax”. We all have to pay a little from time to time, but most of us can keep these types of expenses under wraps by paying attention to the details of contracts and phone usage. I’m not sure how big a fan I am of having the FCC step in and help those who can’t seem to help themselves to a few extra texts over their allotted number. But, I can’t argue that it would be nice for my cellular carrier to let me know when I’ve entered into the realm of extra charges. I mean, I’m a pretty busy person and a notification can bring to my attention, what might end up being an expensive oversight.

Cellular Billing Regulation: Will This Resolve Billing Issues? The Reality

In reality, I think that the cellular carriers already have a notification system in place that allows them to notify their customers of when they begin to accrue extra charges in certain situations. What I think will happen is that laws will be put into place that will require them to expand these existing notification systems to include additional services that result in larger bills. And there will be a lot of fuss and muss in the negotiations between the FCC and the cellular industry, but in the end, there will be a compromise. And, in an age where unlimited is the norm, most of us won’t be seeing much of any change to our cellular service or bill.

Here’s more coverage of the latest consumer issues besetting the public.

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