AARP's Fraud Resource Center can help protect your digital identity! Learn more.
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.
Members save 5% on a monthly subscription.
Members save 30% off the first year of a World Explorer subscription.
Members save $65-$200 on round-trip tickets purchased online.
AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.
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.
Manage your email preferences and tell us which topics interest you so that we can prioritize the information you receive.
Explore all that AARP has to offer.
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