05.26.2010 11:00 AM
FCC Finds Broadband, Wireless Bills ‘Shock’ Users
WASHINGTON: One in six wireless users has experienced
“bill shock,” the FCC said this week. The commission released the results of a
survey of cell-phone and broadband users and found 15 percent had “a sudden
increase in their monthly bill... not caused by a change in service plan.” The
survey also revealed that nearly half of cell phone users and nearly two-thirds
of home broadband users with early termination fees have no idea how much they
would owe. The survey lands as the feds consider how to create a nationwide
broadband network--one that would likely require the participation of incumbent
wireless and broadband providers.
“The FCC’s consumer survey provides an important snapshot of the real-world
experiences of mobile customers,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. “A
simple and easy to understand mobile purchase and billing process will empower
consumers to avoid bill shock and other unexpected fees.”
Abt/SRBI and Princeton Survey Research Associates International interviewed
3,005 American adults between April 19 to May 2, 2010. Of those, 80 percent had
a personal cell phone. Among the bill-shocked...
... 84 percent said their provider didn’t warn them about exceeding their plan
... 88 percent said their provider didn’t contact them after their bill
Bill shock amounts varied, but were often “sizeable,” the FCC said. More than
one-third of folks said their bills jumped by at least $50; 23 percent, by $100
or more. Among personal cell-phone users, 54 percent had early termination
fees; 43 percent said they were $150 or more. Eighteen percent didn’t know if
they had ETFs, and of those who did, 47 percent didn’t know how much they were.
Most blamed incomprehensible bills. Findings were similar for home broadband
termination fees. Just 21 percent of home broadband users said their contracts
include an early termination fee, but 64 percent didn’t know how much it was.
Folks surveyed said ETFs keep them from changing carriers even if their service
was lousy. Forty-three percent said it was their major reason for keeping a substandard
The commission said it’s looking into ways to mitigate bill shock. It launched
a related proceeding last August and another earlier this month targeting bill
-- Deborah D. McAdams