Cell Phone Bill Shock Bill Introduced

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) has introduced a bill that would
require cell phone service providers, which now includes cable companies like
Cox with quadruple play offerings, to notify their customers with an
e-mail or text message when they are close to their monthly limit on voice
minutes, text messages or data usage.

The bill, The Cell Phone Bill Shock Act of 2011, would
charge the FCC with enforcing that requirement. The commission has separately
asked for input on whether it should adopt a usage notification system model
like that in Europe.

The bill would answer that question with a resounding yes.
The bill would also require companies to obtain consumer consent for a service
that charges for usage in excess of their monthly limit of voice, text, or

"Sending an automatic text or email notification
to a person's phone is a simple, cost-effective solution that should not place
a burden on cell phone companies and will go a long way toward reducing the
pain of bill shock by customers," said Udall in announcing the bill.

The cell phone lobby said the bill is unnecessary.
"CTIA's members currently offer their customers a variety of tools and
features, such as 24/7 support on websites and toll-free numbers, to help them
monitor their usage," said the group in a statement. "Many carriers
also offer free shortcuts for consumers to check the number of texts, amount of
voice minutes and data usage. In addition, the wireless industry continues to
educate consumers with efforts such as today's launch of the 'Wireless Consumer
Checklist' to ensure they have the right plans and services to meet their
individual needs. Legislation that attempts to standardize these practices will
also have the effect of freezing these developments in place and limiting
innovation. That doesn't help consumers."    

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.