Bill Shock Be Gone: FCC, Wireless Carriers Strike a Deal

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Rather than face regulation, wireless service providers have struck a deal with the Federal Communications Commission to warn customers about impending overage charges for voice, text and data use.

Customers will receive free text alerts in real-time when they’re about to exceed their limits, CNET reports. The move is supposed to cut down on the “bill shock” people may feel when hit with sky-high rates for extra usage. Wireless carriers will also warn customers who travel overseas about the additional fees they may incur.

(MORE: Overage Fees Are Good for You, Says the Wireless Industry)

The FCC has been talking about bill shock countermeasures for over a year. In May 2010, an FCC survey found that 17% of mobile customers have seen unexpected spikes in their bills, and that most of those people weren’t alerted ahead of time.

In October, the commission proposed rules that included the warnings wireless carriers are now implementing voluntarily. The FCC also considered mandating an easy way for customers to cap their own usage, so they’d never get hit with overage charges.

I’m guessing wireless providers struck a deal to avoid that mandate. The wireless industry loves overage fees, and the huge amounts of money they bring in. Earlier this year, the industry even tried to argue that overage fees are good for you, which of course is totally crazy, but shows how badly the industry doesn’t want those charges to go away.

Under the volunteer measures, wireless carriers have 18 months to put their warning systems in place. Yes, government is that slow.

Some providers, including AT&T and Verizon Wireless, already warn their customers as their data use approaches the limit. However, these warnings may be delayed. AT&T, for example, takes 24 hours. The agreement for real-time alerts may require wireless providers to speed up their systems.

As CNET points out, several apps are available for monitoring your own usage, including DataMan Pro, 3G Watchdog and Onavo, in case you don’t feel like waiting for wireless carriers.

MORE: Are Texting Apps a Real Threat to Wireless Carriers?

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