FCC Uses Tweets To Build Bill-Shock Record

Commission uses social networking site to collect samples of hefty wireless phone bills
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The FCC has taken to the Twittersphere to collect examples of suprisingly hefty wireless phone bills.

“I received a bill with over $500 in overage charges”; “My bill suddenly tripled in one month,” say the FCC tweets. "Share your story using #BillShock."

It followed that up with one linking to a story about Verizon forgiving an $18,000 phone bill incurred after the termination of a free Web access trial period elapsed unnoticed by the customer.

The FCC last week launched an official inquiry into ways to combat unexpected wireless phone charges, or what it calls "bill shock."

The FCC's new Consumer Task Force, headed by Joel Gurin, chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, wants to know whether the U.S. can and should adopt the European Union practice of mandating that wireless carriers send text messages to consumers who are running up roaming charges or pushing the limit on data roaming. The latter could become an issue if the FCC is correct about the importance of wireless to the broadband future.

The FCC opened a general inquiry last year into insuring access to information about communications services (transparency and notification are elements in the FCC's proposed expansion and codification of network neutrality principles), but this inquiry drills down into the specific question automatic notification.

"We are hearing from consumers about unpleasant surprises on their bills," said Gurin last week. "We've gotten hundreds of complaints about bill shock. It apparently wants to hear from a lot more to help build its record for possible action."

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