A New York Times article states that the FCC plans to propose rules requiring mobile phone companies to alert customers by voice or text message when they are have reached monthly usage limits and are about to incur extra charges. The problem is that so many mobile phone user are getting “bill shock” each month because they have gone over their limit in voice and data
Recently, Verizon has agreed to refund thousands of dollars to its customers because of “mystery” charges that they paid over the last few years. We’ve all seen the $2 and $3 charges that sit on our bills for fees we have no idea what they are for.
In these economic times, every dollar counts, so the cost of having a mobile phone is under scrutiny. Nobody wants to get a $400-$4,000 bill at the end of the month when they were expecting a $40 bill. The proposed FCC rules are supposed to eliminate this problem by requiring all mobile phone companies to alert their customers when they are approaching the limit.
The mobile phone companies are opposed to more regulation citing they already have mechanisms in place the consumer can use. The problem with this argument is the average cell phone user is probably not tech savvy enough to know the service is available to them or how to use it. So the fact that the option is available does not mean the customer is aware or will use it.
I happen to use my usage limit notification tool. It is a lifesaver for me. I get an alert telling me when I am approaching my usage limit. This is very good since I have a teenager on my plan. When I get an alert, I tell her to monitor her calls or wait until the weekend for long phone conversations.
Though I utilize this tool, it’s not very likely that others do, so they may continue getting “bill shock.” The new rule the FCC wants to implement may be the right thing to do. People who aren’t tech savvy get another layer of consumer protection. After all, this is a service the mobile companies are providing and without the consumer buying their services, they would stop being relevant and viable.
The FCC rule is good for everyone, however the mobile phone companies’ only objective is to make money. That is why they are in business. The less consumers monitor their usage, the more money the mobile phone companies make. If you are a stockholder, executive, or owner this is advantageous. But if these companies want long term loyalty, embracing the FCC ruling or at least making usage limit alerts standard would be the right step in ensuring customer loyalty.
If you are one of thousands who deal with outrageous cell phone fees I offer a few tips to regain a sense of control over your bill and save money:
- Know your billing cycle and look at your usage at the halfway point. If you are going close to going over the limit call your provider and request an upgrade to avoid the overage fees.
- Take advantage of the usage alert system option if it is available for your phone. Call the customer service center or visit the website for instructions on how to find it on your phone and how to use it.
- Make calls during off peak hours as much as possible. If you have multiple lines on your account, be sure everyone is aware of their calls and data usage.
- If you have kids on your plan consider not putting data plans on their cell phones and getting an unlimited text message plan. Let’s face it, kids text more than talk on the phone.
- Review your usage with your provider’s customer service rep and come up with the best plan for the amount of time you use.
- Plan for unusual peaks in usage when family or friends will be out of the country, going off to college, or other events that separate and for which the phone will be the primary mode of communication.
These measures will reduce your chances of having an outrageous mobile phone bill at the end of the month. If the FCC rule passes that will be great for the consumer; money will be saved and that’s great during these tough economic times. But if the rule is delayed or doesn’t pass, you have ways to take control of your cell phone billing destiny.
Samantha Gregory Founder, RichSingleMomma.com
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