October 23 2009|07.00 PM UTC

Angelica Nierras

FCC to America: Is Your Cell Phone Bill Confusing?

Category: UncategorizedTags: , , ,

This summer, the Federal Communications Committee (FCC) asked America to weigh in on whether consumers have enough information to make decisions about their communications services.

Turns out Americans have plenty to say. And so do we. BillShrink has found that 8 out of 10 people are overpaying on their cell phone bills — to the tune of $800 million dollars total so far this year!

People are not only paying more than they need to, but they are frequently locked into contracts and have difficulty understanding their phone bills. It’s time for reform in the industry. So, we assembled our recommendations to the FCC and if you’ve ever puzzled over your cell phone contract, experienced spotty reception in your house, or scratched your head over downright confusing charges in your monthly cell phone bill, our complaints will look familiar.

We addressed issues of information disclosure in the wireless communication industry and recommended increased public access to data regarding coverage maps and dropped call data, plans and pricing transparency, contract detail, demarcation of taxes, and other hidden fees. We believe that making this information publicly available will better empower Americans to make informed decisions about their wireless plan purchases.

Consumer action groups, attorneys general, local telecommunications commissions joined in to say that the wireless industry needs to better disclose its policies. Together we form a pretty unified group in demanding change.

Not surprisingly, the wireless industry disagrees that change is necessary. In their filed comments, Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T paint a radically different picture of the current marketplace. Each carrier argues that it provides plenty of information to consumers – so much information, in fact, that consumers are plenty satisfied with their service options and 100% empowered to select services that meet their needs. According to Sprint, “wireless customers are increasingly satisfied with their wireless service,” while AT&T says “consumers in the communications marketplace are increasingly well-informed.”

Well heck, if consumers are so well-informed, why does the average American pay more than $300 a year* to their wireless providers for services they never use?

We’re glad to get on our soap box and demand reform. It’s time that the whole country stops wasting money on wireless bills – “Can you hear me now?!”

*Or more! Los Angeles residents spend an unnecessary $475 a year on their cell phone bills; Miami residents spend an extra $450; Chicago residents an extra $464; and Seattle residents $504. (All data based on BillShrink users.)

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Consumer Cellular October 28, 2009 at 1:34 pm

Wow, this was truly an eye-opening article Angelica! Especially the statistic that “BillShrink has found that 8 out of 10 people are overpaying on their cell phone bills — to the tune of $800 million dollars total so far this year! People are not only paying more than they need to, but they are frequently locked into contracts and have difficulty understanding their phone bills.” I work for Consumer Cellular, and we are trying to help customers eliminate overpaying on their cell phone bills by offering NO CONTRACT plans for as little as $10 a month. This way, people won’t get locked into long term plans and can avoid continuous over-service fees by being able to change their plan at any time for free. Please keep up the good reporting!

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MadamDeb November 12, 2009 at 11:01 pm

I’d like the FCC to do something about the infernal early termination fees. Especially when a family member (e.g., grown child) adds a service, then renegs on the deal and the original member (i.e., the susceptible parent) is stuck with incredible early termination fees. Which they thought they’d paid, but then are asked to pay the additional service termination’s fee (and cannot do it because of job loss).

Yeah, that’s what I’d like to see.

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Margareta August 19, 2011 at 7:03 am

Hello. do you mind if i quote it in my blog?

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Jenny Edwards August 24, 2011 at 11:52 am

No problem! We just ask that you link back to our post please :-)

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