FCC Investigating Cellphone “Bill Shock”

According to an article in yesterda’s Washington Post, the FCC is finally going to do extensive investigating into cellphone “bill shock”.

Over the last few years, more and more customers have been complaining about overages, third party charges and various other mystery charges that appear on their monthly cellphone bills…

In the first stage, the FCC is going to require cell providers to notify customers of overages and sudden increases in their bills. After the major incident recently where Verizon was overcharging customers for services, especially data, the government is finally going to start looking into the billing practices of all U.S. Carriers.

Advocacy groups say that this new move by the FCC is only touching the tip of the iceberg and that much more needs to be done to protect consumers from the practices of greedy carriers. Most customers monthly bills are a multi-page puzzle of charges and legal jargon that only serves to confuse customers even more, all mounting up to considerably more than the customer signed up for at the time of sale.

Getting back to Verizon’s $50 million dollars in wrongful charges, one customer, Carl Hamann of Michigan, says he feels he was one of the customers wrongfully charged. He started seeing $1.99 charges for data access on his phones last year and he called and had both his and his sons phones blocked from everything but voice, but this summer he was getting hit with $60-$80 monthly charges for data usage. Over the months, he’s called Verizon numerous times for over $300 in erroneous data charges.

One of the biggest offenders are text messages from within games or other apps where a customer clicks on the item thinking they are paying a onetime charge of $.99 or a little more, and in reality are signing up for a monthly subscription anywhere from $14.99 to $19.99 a month due to fine print they never even notice.

Although none of these activities are illegal, most customer feel that they have a relationship of trust with the carrier and that the carrier would have strict standards for third parties adding onto a customer’s bill, but they do not.

In the first quarter of 2010 the FCC received 5,100+ inquiries from customers which was a 28% increase in over previous quarters due wireless billing issues. I know I have personally had to call a few times over 20 years of service to have mystery charges removed. I also have a friend who’s ex-girlfriend was so mad at him she went onto websites and signed his phone up for all kinds of subscriptions and he got a bill for $400 over his normal amount.

I personally think when it comes to signing up for these subscriptions, the third party company’s should be required to send a confirmation text that the customer has to respond to before they are actually signed up and charged. What you do think? Leave a comment and let us hear from you.