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FCC invites comment on cell phone 'bill shock'

Should wireless carriers be required to inform you when you're about to incur a hefty charge? The FCC will consider the matter.

The Federal Communications Commission will consider proposals to prevent cell phone users from experiencing heart attacks when they open their monthly statements.

The agency called it "bill shock," that paralyzing, panicky feeling you get when you get your wireless bill and find out you're on the hook for something like $18,000. On Tuesday it opened a public comment period to discuss, among other things, whether or not to impose stricter rules forcing wireless carriers to give consumers more warning about pending charges.

"We've gotten hundreds of complaints about bill shock," said Joel Gurin, chief of the FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, in a press release. "But this is an avoidable problem. Avoiding bill shock is good for consumers and ultimately good business for wireless carriers as well."

Last June the European Union required wireless carriers to send cell phone users a text message if they were about to incur expensive data-roaming charges or get within 80 percent of the usage limit on their monthly plan. Some wireless carriers in the U.S. already offer services like that, but the FCC wants to hear from the public about the prospect of requiring carriers to offer those services.

The announcement opens up a 45-day comment period.