Thursday, June 3, 2010

Post Tech: Cell users being hit with surprise charges, fees
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By Cecilia Kang
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
The Washington Post

The Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday that one in six cell phone users have been shocked to find increases in their monthly bills that aren't part of their service plan, according to a survey by the agency.

Half of cell phone users and two-thirds of broadband Internet subscribers said they are unaware of early contract cancellation fees attached to their plans, the FCC said.

The findings, from a survey of 3,005 adults by Abt/SRBI and Princeton Survey Research Associates, indicate consumer confusion in the mobile marketplace ¿ an exploding industry of 180 million users who are increasingly using text messaging and Internet services that can trigger extra charges.

"There is still more that can be done to help customers navigate what is sometimes a confusing marketplace," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement. "A simple and easy to understand mobile purchase and billing process will empower consumers to avoid bill shock and other unexpected fees."

The results could set the stage for new guidelines or rules to better protect consumers, analysts have said. The FCC earlier this month said it would explore ways to prevent bill shock for cell phone users. The agency pointed to mandatory text message alerts in the E.U. that warn customers when charges are exceeding monthly contract plans.

FCC Consumer and Governmental Affairs bureau chief, Joel Gurin, said the agency is also reviewing the process and disclosure of early termination fees ¿ the penalty a consumer pays for leaving a cell phone, cable or broadband contract early. Consumer groups have said such fees unfairly tie users to a contract, hindering competitors. And often, consumers find those charges buried in fine print or not clearly articulated by sales staff, the groups to complete article

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