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Kai Ryssdal: You know those stories you hear about people getting cell phone bills in the hundreds or maybe thousands of dollars? People whose teenagers thought nothing of downloading a movie onto their smart phones or who got carried away texting? Well, the Federal Communications Commission has heard those stories, too. And says it wants to find a way to let consumers know they’re in trouble before the bill shows up in the mail.
From Washington, Brett Neely has more.
Brett Neely: The FCC calls it bill shock. Here’s one of the complaints it recently received, read by a member of Marketplace’s staff.
COMPLAINT: My bill suddenly tripled in one month. When I got to looking it over, I noticed that they had charged me for my mobile-to-mobile minutes. They had advertised free mobile-to-mobile.
The agency may ask cell-phone carriers to send customers a text message when they begin to run up big bills or come close to their monthly data limits. It’s similar to what’s already required of European companies. The industry says customers can already find out how many texts they’ve sent or how much data they’ve used for free on their phones.
But Joel Kelsey with the nonprofit Consumers Union says the information they provide is too technical for most users to understand. He wants…
JOEL KELSEY: Not just information about kilobytes, but information about how much would it cost in dollars and cents to download a song.
Chris Guttman-McCabe is a lobbyist with the Wireless Association. He says if you do get an eye-popping bill, you should call your cell-phone company and ask them to remove the charge.
CHRIS GUTTMAN-MCCABE: And in the over-over-overwhelming majority of those cases, the customer and the carrier come to some sort of understanding.
But that doesn’t always work. The Boston Globe recently profiled a family that’s been fighting an $18,000 bill with Verizon for four years.
In Washington, I’m Brett Neely for Marketplace.
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