FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 7, 2011
AARP Urges FCC to Protect Consumers from
Hidden Cell Phone Fees
New Regulations Call for More Transparency, Empower Mobile Phone Users to Combat ‘Bill Shock’
Washington— In comments submitted today to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), AARP urged the Commission to adopt measures that would increase transparency and disclosure in the cell phone market to protect consumers from unfair and surprising fee hikes. Providing advance notification of unexpected charges and hidden fees would help reduce and avoid cell phone “bill shock” often experienced by American consumers, including a growing number of older Americans.
The FCC is considering implementing new regulations which would empower consumers to avoid “bill shock,” which is a sudden and unexpected increase in monthly bills that is not caused by a change in service plans.
Based on a recent FCC survey, 17% of American adults with a personal cell phone said that at one time, their cell phone bill increased suddenly from one month to the next, even though they had not changed their calling or texting plans. Of those 17% percent, 22% of the respondents were Americans age 50 and older.
Excerpts from AARP’s comments to the FCC by David Certner, AARP Legislative Policy Director, are below:
“We find it not surprising that a recent FCC Survey indicated that 30 million Americans -- or one in six mobile phone users -- have experienced “bill shock,”... As noted by this study, bill shock can occur for a number of reasons, including unclear or misunderstood advertising, unanticipated roaming or data charges, and other problems.
“AARP strongly encourages the FCC to approve the following measures to provide advance notification of unexpected charges and reduce and avoid cell phone bill shock:
* Notification via voice or text alerts whenever a wireless customer approaches and/or reaches monthly limits, as well as to a pre-designated “main” line for the plan.
* Notification when a customer is about to get hit with roaming charges while traveling as well as to a pre-designated “main” line for the plan.
* Better disclosure by service providers of tools available for managing a wireless account, such as online resources or smart-phone apps.
* Allowing consumers to cap usage, thus preventing additional costs;
* Allowing consumers to cancel, without penalty, any contract for wireless telephone service within a period of at least 20 days after the date of the first bill for monthly service following service activation.
“The costs to consumers resulting from unexpected charges can be significant… AARP recommends the FCC should adopt comprehensive rules to promote informed choice and consumer protection in the wireless telecommunications services market.”
For a full copy of the comments, please contact AARP Media Relations at 202-434-2560 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.aarp.org.
AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan social welfare organization with a membership that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for 50+ Americans and the world's largest-circulation magazine with over 35.1 million readers; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for AARP's millions of members and Americans 50+; AARP VIVA, the only bilingual U.S. publication dedicated exclusively to the 50+ Hispanic community; and our website, AARP.org. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.