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Bill Shock

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Preventing Bill Shock

A recent FCC Survey indicated that 30 million Americans -- or one in six mobile users -- have experienced “bill shock,” a sudden and unexpected increase in monthly bills that is not caused by a change in service plans. Bill shock can occur for a number of reasons including unclear or misunderstood advertising, unanticipated roaming or data charges, and other problems.

It can be difficult to know when you’re running up a surprisingly high wireless bill, especially if you don’t monitor your usage or receive automatic usage alerts.

The FCC’s Consumer Task Force recommends these strategies to avoid bill shock today:

•    Understand your calling pattern for making voice calls, and ask your carrier for a plan that would be best for your kind of use.
•    If you are an infrequent phone user, consider a pre-paid plan. Because you “pre-pay” for all your minutes, these plans make it impossible to go over your set limit.
•    Understand what your roaming charges are and where you will incur them.
•    Understand your options for data and text plans.
•    If you are going to use your mobile phone outside the U.S. for voice, email, and other services, make certain to find out beforehand what charges may apply. (Visit Wireless World Travel for more information about using a wireless phone in other countries.)
•    Ask how your carrier can help you avoid bill shock – with phone or text alerts, by letting you monitor your account online, or by giving you other information.
•    If you have tried to resolve a billing issue with your carrier and can not reach an acceptable resolution, complain to the FCC. You can call our Consumer Center, toll-free, at 1-888-CALL FCC (1-888-225-5322), or file a complaint here.

To learn more, read the FCC's White Paper on Bill Shock.

To file comments on the bill shock proceeding, visit ECFS Express

Consumer Resources

From the Chairman:

The FCC's Consumer Empowerment Agenda

Blog Posts:

Denying Bill Shock by Distorting the Facts
Consumer View: Stop the Shock Blog & Video 

Tip Sheets:

Mobile Minutes Made Simple: Tips for Avoiding Bill Shock | Acrobat
What You Should Know About The Verizon Wireless / FCC Consent Decree | Acrobat

White Paper:

FCC's White Paper on Bill Shock
Word | Acrobat


Americans’ Perspectives on Bill Shock and Early Termination Fees
Word | Acrobat

Verizon Wireless “Mystery Fees” Consent Decree:

Word | Acrobat

News & Notices

  • 12/17/10
    Empowering Consumers to Avoid Bill Shock. Revised Comment Date: January 10, 2011. Revised Reply Comment Date: February 8, 2011. (Dkt No. 09-158 10-207).
    Order: Word | Acrobat
  • 11/30/10
    Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Announces the Dates For Filing Comments and Reply Comments Regarding "Bill Shock".
    Public Notice: Word | Acrobat
  • 10/28/10
    FCC Investigation Into Verizon Wireless "Mystery Fees" Results in Record Settlement.
    News Release: Word | Acrobat
    Order: Word | Acrobat
    Consent Decree: Word | Acrobat
    Genachowski Statement: Word | Acrobat
    Copps Statement: Word | Acrobat
    Clyburn Statement: Word | Acrobat
  • 10/14/2010
    FCC Proposes Rules to Help Mobile Phone Users Avoid “BILL SHOCK”.  New Rules Would Require Companies to Notify Customers When They Are About to Exceed Their Plan Limits and Incur Extra Charges.
    News Release: Word | Acrobat
    NPRM: Word | Acrobat
    Genachowski Statement: Word | Acrobat
    Copps Statement: Word | Acrobat
    McDowell Statement: Word | Acrobat
    Clyburn Statement: Word | Acrobat
    Baker Statement: Word | Acrobat
  • 10/13/2010
  • FCC Paper Finds Ongoing Consumer Frustration with "Bill Shock."
  • News Release: Word | Acrobat
  • White Paper: Word | Acrobat
  • 5/26/2010
  • FCC Survey Confirms Consumers Experience Mobile Bill Shock and Confusion About Early Termination Fees.
  • News Release: Word | Acrobat
  • 5/25/2010

Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau Announces the Dates for Filing Comments and Reply Comments on its Public Notice Regarding "Bill Shock".
Public Notice: Word

  • 5/11/2010

FCC Bureau Launches Initiative to Help Consumers Avoid "Bill Shock".
News Release: Word | Acrobat

  • 05/11/2010

Comment Sought on Measures Designed to Assist U.S. Wireless Consumers to Avoid “Bill Shock.”
Public Notice: Word | Acrobat