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Industry heads off regulation by announcing `bill shock` antidote


More than 200 million wireless consumers will soon be assured of a getting "a fair shake, not bill shock," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said during an announcement at The Brookings Institute today.

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A year after Genachowski — alerted to the bill shock issue by the Consumers Union — proposed to the commission that wireless carriers be required to alert subscribers when they`re about to exceed monthly voice and data quotas and so incur charges, the wireless industry has volunteered to do so. Their pro-activeness, as it were, has allowed the FCC — which will take a "trust but verify approach," said Genachowski — to for now put off any bill making.

In the vein of "empowering consumers with the tools and information they need to navigate the rapidly changing communications landscape," the communications industry has will take three steps, suggested by the FCC and Consumers Union. They`ll:

• send voice or text alerts when subscribers approach and reach limits that would result in overage charges;

• send alerts when subscribers are about to accrue overage fees while internationally roaming; and

• clearly disclose any tools that carriers offer, so consumers can set their own usage limits and monitor their usage.

The alerts will be free to subscribers and happen automatically, without the need to opt in.

The Consumers Union and the FCC will also be launching a portal on the FCC Web site showing how all members of the CTIA are complying.

"This public portal will also provide a public incentive for carriers to move quickly with implementation," said Genachowski. "Let`s see carriers competing to see who can provide the best alerts, information and notifications to consumers."

Genachowski said he had the honor of attending the memorial service for the late Apple founder Steve Jobs yesterday, and that a theme of Jobs` life had been his focus on products and services that bring people real benefits and delight.

With today`s joint announcement by the FCC, CTIA and Consumers Union, he added, the carriers were "taking steps to make sure that mobile devices continue to delight every American that uses them."


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