Join AARP today! Veterans and military families receive a gift and up to a 30% discount.
From the AARP Bulletin Print Edition, March 1, 2011
Anyone who has ever opened a cellphone bill to find astoundingly high charges can empathize with Bob St. Germain. His bill was $18,000.
In 2006 St. Germain, 67, of Dover, Mass., began trying to get the charges lifted. He went through automated systems, live customer service, collection agencies and the media before his cellphone carrier removed the charges.
The Federal Communications Commission is considering rules to help prevent cases like St. Germain's. An agency survey showed that 30 million American consumers of cellphone and broadband service — one in six — have experienced what has come to be called "bill shock." Eighty-eight percent of those surveyed said the cellphone company did not contact them after their bill suddenly increased, and 84 percent said their cell carrier did not contact them when they were about to exceed their allotted minutes, text messages or data downloads.
Under rules being considered by the FCC, the companies would have to give consumers a heads-up when they are about to exceed their allotments or if their bill is about to increase.
In the case of St. Germain, his son ran up charges when he plugged his cellphone into a laptop to connect to the Internet. The son didn't know free Web access was no longer included after his father renewed the family plan.
In comments to the FCC, AARP legislative counsel David Certner said cellphones have "become an indispensable tool of modern life," and pointed to an FCC survey in which 22 percent of respondents who said they had experienced "bill shock" were over age 50.
Please leave your comment below.
You must be logged in to leave a comment.
Featured AARP Member Benefits
See All >
You are leaving AARP.org and going to the website of our trusted provider. The provider’s terms, conditions and policies apply. Please return to AARP.org to learn more about other benefits.
Your email address is now confirmed.
You'll start receiving the latest news, benefits, events, and programs related to AARP's mission to empower people to choose how they live as they age.
You can also manage your communication preferences by updating your account at anytime. You will be asked to register or log in.
In the next 24 hours, you will receive an email to confirm your subscription to receive emails
related to AARP volunteering. Once you confirm that subscription, you will regularly
receive communications related to AARP volunteering. In the meantime, please feel free
to search for ways to make a difference in your community at