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FCC tracks wireless carriers that alert consumers of overages

FCC launched a new "bill shock" Web site that will let consumers know which carriers warn of phone overages.


In an effort to minimize "bill shock" for cell phone customers, or the surprise people experience when they are charged unexpected or ambiguous overages and fees, the Federal Communications Commission launched a new site that will keep track of carriers that alert their customers when they approach or exceed their plan limits.

During the fall of last year, several top phone carriers (all of which cover over 97 percent of U.S. wireless phone customers) agreed to begin sending out free overage alerts to their customers starting October 2012.

These warnings would notify their subscribers if they've received roaming charges, of if they are going to cap out their voice, data, and text plans. In the case that they've already exceeded their plan limits, carriers would also send out alerts notifying them of any oncoming fees.

The new FCC site keeps tabs on which carriers participate in this new warning system, what they notify customers for, and it provides links to the different carriers' phone plans.

According to the FCC, carriers "must provide their subscribers with at least two of the four types of alerts [voice, data, text, and roaming] by Oct. 17, 2012, and all of the alerts by April 17, 2013."

By launching this site, the FCC hopes to increase consumer awareness when they sign up for phone plans. It was reported by the commission that one in six wireless users experienced bill shock.

Julius Genachowski, chairman of the FCC, said in a statement last Thursday that "using technology to empower consumers with information" was the Commission's top priority.

"We also promised an online resource with information about when carriers begin providing these alerts. Today, we deliver on that promise."