FCC says many phone users 'shocked' by bills
One in six phone customers have experienced "bill shock," a drastic increase in a monthly bill not related to a change in service, according to a survey by the Federal Communications Commission.
More than one-third of the survey's 3,000 respondents said their phone bills have inexplicably jumped by at least $50 in a month, and 23 percent said the increase topped $100, according to the agency, which released the results today.
Eighty-four percent said they were not contacted before they exceeded their allowed limits for text messages or data downloads.
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said in a press release that more "can be done to help customers navigate what is sometimes a confusing marketplace. A simple and easy to understand mobile purchase and billing process will empower consumers to avoid bill shock and other unexpected fees."
The FCC unveiled its bill shock initiative earlier this month, citing a Boston Globe story Dover resident Bob St. Germain, who received an $18,000 phone bill from Verizon in 2006 that covered just six weeks of usage. St. Germain's son, Bryan, now 26, racked up the charges by tethering his cellphone to a laptop computer after the expiration of a two-year promotional period that included free Internet access.
Shortly after the FCC said it would take steps to prevent such billing mishaps, Verizon offered to forgive St. Germain's debt.
The FCC is also looking at the fairness of early termination fees for cell hone and broadband services as it considers imposing new regulations on the wireless industry.
Abt/SRBI and Princeton Survey Research Associates International conducted the survey from April 19 to May 2 for the FCC. Participants included consumers both landlines and cellphones.