A new plan to prevent cell phone 'bill shock'

A cell phone and bill.

Steve Chiotakis: Today the wireless industry's unveiled something to combat something it calls "bill shock." That's when the amount due on your cell phone bill is higher than you were expecting because you went over on your minutes. Now the cell phone companies have agreed to give consumers a heads up before they go over.

Pural Desai is a lawyer with the Consumers Union. She's been pushing for these notifications for some time now, and she's with us now from Washington this morning. Parul, good morning.

Parul Desai: Good morning, Steve, how are you?

Chiotakis: I'm doing well. How big of a problem has this been?

Desai: Well, this has been a big problem for consumers. We at Consumers Union have done several surveys the last couple years, and we each time have found that 20 percent of consumers are suffering from "bill shock." And in this tough economy, I think any small amount that you don't expect to be charged on your phone is going to be a big deal for consumers.

Chiotakis: So they're going to get a notice -- when they're at the max, they're going to know?

Desai: They're going to get alerts before they hit their limit, as well as when they hit their limit. So they'll get two alerts so that they're aware when they are approaching their limit as well as when they have hit their limit. So consumers will know before their approach their limit limit that they're about to approac their limit.

Chiotakis: Do you think this is the end of these overage fees that we see -- this "bill shock" as you say?

Desai: I think as long as consumers are aware that they are about to go over, it will help them gauge whether or not they want to use the service that they're about to go for. So we are hoping that this is a strong step for consumers to avoid bill shock.

Chiotakis: All right. Parul Desai, lawyer with the Consumers Union in Washington. Parul, thanks.

Desai: Thank you Steve.

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