The Federal Communications Commission today launched a new 'bill shock' website that tracks how the major U.S. wireless carriers alert you when you're at risk of going over your usage limits for voice, data, and text.
Bill shock is the reaction you may have after finding an unexpected increase in your monthly wireless bill because you unknowingly went over your limit. It can also happen when you travel abroad and get hit with international roaming charges.
According to a survey by the FCC, 30 million Americans have experienced bill shock. That amounts to one in six wireless users.
Parul Desai, policy counsel for Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, said the FCC's new site is an important step towards consumer protection. "Bill shock is avoidable with timely, free alerts. And now, with the FCC's new website, consumers can know with certainty which alerts their wireless carrier is providing."
The website tracking tool is the result of an agreement between the FCC and the CTIA wireless trade association to help wireless customers avoid overage charges. Back in In October, Consumers Union joined the FCC and CTIA to announce a new industry initiative to provide free alerts to help customers avoid bill shock.
The FCC website features a table of participating carriers and outlines the steps they've taken thus far in providing alerts. The site will be updated regularly as CTIA provides new information.
If you're looking for information about cell phones and services see our Cell phone and service buying guide, plus Ratings of service providers, (available to subscribers). Earlier today we also reported on which carrier offers the best services and monthly bills (audio), and we previously covered 5 ways to avoid cell-phone 'bill shock.'
"With current alert policies varying widely across the industry, we applaud the FCC and CTIA's efforts to make it clear to consumers what tools they have available to them now," said Desai. "We urge wireless companies to implement these new alerts sooner rather than later."
If you've tried to resolve a billing issue with your carrier, but can't reach an acceptable resolution, you can file a complaint with the FCC by calling 888-225-5322 (voice) or 888-835-5322 (TTY), or log a complaint online.