A group of state utility regulators voiced support today for legislation that would require cell phone operators to notify customers when they are getting close to their monthly voice or data limits.
The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners wrote Senate Commerce Chairman John (Jay) Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and ranking member Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, to weigh in on the legislation offered by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M. Although the group said it has not taken a position on "all aspects of the bill," NARUC backs efforts to ensure consumers have clear information about the rates, terms and conditions of their cell phone contracts.
Udall's legislation aims to address what has been described as "bill shock" when customers receive a much higher wireless bill than they anticipated because they have exceeded their monthly minutes, text messages or data downloads.
The measure would require cell phone companies to notify customers by e-mail or text message free of charge when those customers have used 80 percent of their monthly limits under their plan. In addition, wireless providers also would be required to obtain a customer's consent before charging them for services not covered by their regular monthly service plan.
"To make informed decisions and to avoid bill shock or other unforeseen charges and fees, consumers need easy access to real-time information. The FCC complaint and survey data make clear that wireless bill shock is a concern," NARUC President David Coen wrote. Udall's bill "would ensure that consumers have access to the data needed to avoid bill shock and we urge Congress to adopt this legislation."
The FCC also has been studying the issue and is expected to vote next week at its monthly meeting on whether to seek comment on a proposed rule that would require wireless carriers to provide usage alerts and related information that will assist consumers in avoiding unexpected charges on their bills.
This article appears in the October 9, 2010 edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.