CTIA, FCC partner on free overage alerts for voice, texting and data

The CTIA, FCC and Consumers Union banded together to introduce new free overage alerts for wireless customers intended to avoid "bill shock" over charges for voice minutes, text messages, data and international roaming.

The plan is voluntary for wireless carriers but CTIA said it received commitments from carriers representing 97 percent of subscribers. The agreement, announced Monday, also heads off a contentious debate that had been brewing between the FCC and the wireless industry over mandatory bill shock rules.

Under the agreement, dubbed "Wireless Consumer Usage Notification Guidelines," carriers will provide free alerts both before and after subscribers reach monthly limits on voice, data and texts. The plan also includes a notification to inform consumers of international roaming charges when traveling abroad. Subscribers will be covered by this plan unless they opt-out.

However, there is a long lead time for the changes to take effect. Within a year, participating carriers will provide customers with at least two out of the four notifications for data, voice, text and international roaming--and all of the alerts by April 17, 2013.

The FCC began exploring bill shock rules in October 2010 and the industry had pushed back on those efforts, arguing that carriers already provide customers with a variety of tools to monitor their usage and alerts to let them know when they go over. A 2010 FCC study found that one in six mobile device users had experienced some form of bill shock.

The FCC will put its own bill shock proposal on hold while it monitors industry compliance, but FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski didn't offer many details on how the commission will monitor carriers. "We expect compliance," he said at an event in Washington to unveil the proposal, according to the Washington Post. "If not, will take appropriate action...but neither of us think that will happen."

In statements, President Obama, Genachowski, CTIA President Steve Largent and Parul Desai, the policy counsel for the Consumers Union, all praised the ability of the industry and regulators to come together. 

For more:
- see this release
- see this Washington Post article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this NYT article
- see this separate Washington Post article

Related Articles:
Voice and text usage alerts: A lost opportunity for wireless carriers
Wireless struggles against FCC over possible 'bill shock' rules
FCC moves forward on 'bill shock' rules
FCC to consider new wireless 'bill shock' rules
War of words erupts between CTIA, FCC over 'bill shock