Monday, January 24, 2011

Phone company surprise bills

Randall Stross writes:
To be precise, there’s a 1-in-25 chance during a 12-month period of getting a cellphone bill that is $100 higher than expected, based on experiences of respondents in a recent Consumer Reports survey. About one in five reported a significantly higher cellphone bill, of some amount, that was not anticipated.

Last October, the Federal Communications Commission proposed requiring wireless carriers to alert consumers when they’re about to reach their plans’ limits — in call minutes, text messages or data use — so they won’t be shocked at billing time. It conducted its own survey of cellphone users last spring and found that 17 percent had experienced a sudden increase in their bill at some point. That’s 30 million people, the F.C.C. says. ...

Mr. Guttman-McCabe says the F.C.C.’s alerts requirement would cost “tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars to implement.”
That's ridiculous. I prefer a prepaid phone.

Consumers should not be legally liable for unexpected bills. Usually the law says that people are only responsible for the services for which they have agreed. My guess is that the phone companies are actually spending hundreds of millions of dollars to trick consumers into misunderstanding their contracts, and into keeping them from knowing their liabilities. Better regulation would save a lot of money.

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