Filipinos are not the only ones who complain about overcharging by mobile companies—if they have post-paid plans, or losing air load if they are on prepaid. Even Americans complain about “bill shock.”
Edward Wyatt, reporting for the New York Times, said the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had reached an agreement with carriers to alert their clients when they were in danger of being charged extra.
The agreement, which would take effect within a year, came after 18 months of investigation of the FCC of what it called bill shock. Wyatt said bill shock was “what consumers experienced when they receive their monthly wireless bill to find unexpected charges of hundreds or thousands of dollars for roaming or overuse of voice and data services.”
Like here, most American wireless contracts set a flat monthly fee for a fixed number of minutes of talk time, as well as a limit on text messages. With the introduction of smartphones and tablets like the iPad, plans now also include a certain amount of data use.
Apparently, in the US, customers, after exceeding those limits, incur charges that are often far more expensive on a per-unit basis than under the monthly allotments. While many carriers offer ways for consumers to check their usage, many, just like here, do not do so.
Wyatt said carriers had been “losing good will with people bitter about the sometimes exorbitant charges resulting from overuse of what has become a consumer staple—the cell phone.” The FCC estimated that tens of millions of wireless phone users were hit with overuse charges each year.
It seemed the FCC was also concerned that the significant growth in data use was causing the “overcrowding of the airwaves, with wireless companies finding that they may eventually not be able to accommodate the demand for downloading.”
Wyatt said President Barack Obama himself welcomed the agreement, saying, in a statement, “I appreciate the mobile phone companies’ willingness to work with my administration and join us in our overall and ongoing efforts to protect American consumers by making sure financial transactions are fair, honest and transparent.”
Under the agreement, Wyatt said, carriers would alert consumers when they were about to exceed their limits. Users would also be alerted when their phone linked to a foreign cellular system.
Filipino version needed
From the e-mail I get, which I forward to mobile networks for response, many Filipinos will welcome a similar development here. A friend was just complaining recently about being billed for thousands of pesos and not being told by the network that her usage was getting to be much higher than usual. It turned out her son was using her iPad.
I, myself, had a recent bill shock. When I started using a Blackberry in December, my Globe bill hovered around my plan limit. Fluctuations were usually caused by more voice calls or too many text messages. I do not have a Facebook or Twitter account, do not surf, much less download anything (not even the ringtones and screensavers offered by the network) using my phone. I was basically just using the phone to check my e-mail. I hardly even responded to the messages.
Recently, I lost access to two of my mailboxes for whatever reason. And yet, I got a message recently from Globe indicating that my bill had almost tripled. How that happened, I have yet to hear an explanation. So I decided to turn off data access in my Blackberry. I’m waiting to see my next monthly bill.
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