back to article Wireless industry bows to 'bill shock' rules

Bowing to pressure from the US Federal Communications Commission, mobile service providers have agreed on a set of guidelines designed to prevent unexpected wireless charges that induce what's become known as "bill shock". The guidelines are a response to a set of rules proposed last October by the FCC. Although no members of …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One of my friends who lives in the US and uses Verizon had a $2,400 bill a few months back. Apparently one of his children didn't have a data allowance on their contract and racked up a massive bill. First anybody knew about it was when the bill actually arrived.

    I don't know if the new rules would have helped in their situation, but if it prevents others from similarly sized bills then all the better.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe the phone companies should track a person's bill as it's going up (per transaction, phone call, gigabyte of data use, whatever). Warn someone when the bill's about to go above $100 or whatever. Under no circumstances should we be seeing crazy $1,000 bills or so.

    But if the bill shock comes mostly from going over internet data caps, then I say suck it up and stop watching YouTube videos on phones. Use your phone like a phone. Maps and e-mail is fine, anything else... just wait until you're on a desktop computer.

    1. Oninoshiko

      normally, I wouldn't disagree

      but users who don't want to deal with it, should have the option of saying "I don't want data at all" or "I don't want sms at all." Then if someone inadvertently opens something that would incur these fees, it would just refuse the traffic.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    How about cutting you off when you reach the limit?

    What happens if you are downloading some huge file (thinking it was over wifi but you lose the wifi connection so your phone helpfully starts downloading over 3G) If you're downloading a couple dozen megabytes a minute, how quickly does the carrier recognize you are over and send you the text? How much has the overage cost you by the time you get the text and stop what you're doing? With 4G it only gets worse, and it becomes easier to hit that 2GB limit.

    The people who are knowledgeable about tech (i.e. pretty much everyone who reads El Reg, I suspect) don't really have to worry too much about this, we're smart enough to notice if our wifi icon is exchanged for 3G, and to check our monthly usage totals now and then if we suspect we may be at risk for coming near our monthly limit. But how in the hell do we educate our less technically inclined girlfriend or parents about this?

    Don't get me wrong, this is an improvement over how things were, but isn't exactly a real fix to the issue. I would rather have the option of being cut off, or have some sort of automated throttling in place for a plan that's theoretically "unlimited" (thus no overages) but just gets slower when the network is congested and/or you've been too greedy with your data that month. And don't get me started on roaming, when my girlfriend gets her new iPhone I'm going to have to insist she leaves it at home when we travel overseas, otherwise she'll turn it on and it'll check her email for $100 or something crazy like that :)

  4. Arctic fox

    I am constantly amazed at the attitudes displayed.

    "Today's initiative is a perfect example of how government agencies and industries they regulate can work together under President Obama's recent executive order directing federal agencies to consider whether new rules are necessary or would unnecessarily burden businesses and the economy," said CTIA–The Woireless Association headman Steve Largent."

    How about examining whether a *lack* of enforceable rules unnecessarily burdens the customer? How about the default position being in favour of the ordinary citizen instead of (as it nearly always is) organised capital?

  5. peter 45

    Yay for the American way

    Can we now have our Poodle Politicians follow the American’s lead please. Too long have these stoats got away with writing twenty page contracts that stiff the consumer sideways.

    Don't tell me about 'customer beware - read the contact' because that is precisely why they produce these huge unfathomable legal tomes: they are relying on the fact that 99% will not read them, and even if they did would not understand them, just so they can charge these outrageous bills.

  6. Fihart

    challenge anything unexpected

    Given that Nokia maps were "free for life" and (I presumed) relied upon free GPS, was surprised to be billed for mobile broadband usage.

    Apparently due to a phone's small antenna, broadband is needed too. There was no option offered while maps were in use -- unlike email and internet where my phone suggests you choose between wifi and cellphone connection. I did notice what I later realised was a tiny antenna symbol flashing while on maps. And then £2 off my PAYG balance.

    Experimenting showed that it cost 6p just to turn on GPS. I complained about this, among other irritations, and was offered a month's free broadband.

    Also discovered how to turn off broadband support under Settings, General, Positioning Methods -- untick everything except integrated GPS.

    Mapping then works for free, albeit updating more slowly.

    1. Steve X

      Nothing to do with small antennae. GPS just tells you where you are on (or above) the planet. If you want that position shown on a map, you have to download the map, which is nothing to do with the GPS satellites.

      When you start the Nokia maps application (at least on my N95) the first question it asks is "Go online now?". Just say no. If you preload the maps from a PC you'll have no phone charges.

      1. Fihart

        @ steve X

        I already had the maps (as you say, downloaded via USB to the phone from PC). The charge is for updating (or something) via cellphone internet.

        And, no, the Nokia E71 didn't seem to offer the Go Online Now option you mention.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rip off

    Aren't the exorbitant penalty charges similar to the early bank charges? How do the phone service providers justify them as the additional costs are minimal?

  8. Colin Millar
    Thumb Up

    Back to the future

    I had cut-off limits and notifications with the first analogue phone I ever had - 1995?. Any tech arguments put up by telcos against doing this are spurious - it's not even expensive to do so there is very little regulatory cost being passed on.

    And of course what Baker really means by passing on regulatory costs is, in this case, about reducing the opportunities to rip the customers off. I'm not one to support extra government or regulation but there are some areas of consumer protection where we have to start setting some minimum standards beyond which the lies and rip-offs are just too big to bear. The telcos have been such liars and cheats that they have only themselves to blame.

    Now - how about stopping telcos stealing your data allowances by making them ask specifically for each auto phone home app that they want to run against your minutes.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I had 5€ stolen today

    whilst I waited for my Nexus One - with vodafone unlimited (1GB) 3G data contract 3€/wk - to get mended I invested in a Samsung i5500 el' cheap Android capacitive screen smartphone. I bought unbranded/unlocked and stuffed in my SIM. BANG! instantly text from Voda saying you have accessed the network in a manner that is not covered in your contract, txt mentioning that I had had a 5 euro 'fine' for attempting a GPRS connection, and a txt saying my GPRS was being blocked for 24hrs. That was before I had time to disable the robbing thieving system malware apps hiding in the phone that ate the costly fake data. I should have switched it on in a faraday cage! At least in EU Ms Reding has pushed the 5 euro per day limit. This gave me enough time to download the appropriate Apps to deny the phone doing what it wanted and to let me use it for my data needs. I am an unhappy

  10. Your Retarded

    "The Woireless Association"

    I suppose that's what they call it in Ireland?

  11. Relgoshan

    That huge price...

    ...with or without Opera Mini?

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