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10/1/2010
02:33 PM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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Anti 'Bill Shock' Legislation Proposed By Senator

U.S. Senator Tom Udall proposed a new bill that would force wireless network carriers to warn their customers before hitting them with overage charges

Earlier this year, a report indicated that many Americans are "shocked" by their wireless bills. The shock comes from large, unanticipated overage charges when customers exceed their monthly limits for voice minutes, text messages, and cellular data. At least one U.S. lawmaker wants to protect Americans from such "shock."

Senator Udall, from New Mexico, on Thursday proposed the Cell Phone Bill Shock Act of 2010. The main thrust of the bill would be to force wireless network operators to warn or otherwise notify their customers before levying overage charges. Udall suggests that the carriers notify customers when they've reached 80% of their maximum allotment for any given service.

He said in a posting on his personal blog, "Many Americans have been hit hard by ‘bill shock' and I am pleased to introduce legislation that provides additional consumer protections. The texting and Internet capabilities that make today's cell phones more useful than ever should be applied to help customers avoid bill shock. 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."

Udall cites several cases in which customers unknowingly incurred massive fees. One teenager racked up a $22,000 tab on his parent's bill, and another hit the $18,000 mark by tethering a cell phone to a laptop and using it a a modem.

Some of the U.S. network operators already provide customers with account management tools, including usage alerts.

The CTIA Wireless Association believes Udall's heart is in the right place, but disagrees with Udall's methodology.

"While we appreciate the spirit with which the legislation is offered, we are concerned that this bill has the potential to cause customer confusion and frustration. We know those outcomes are not Senator Udall's objective. We look forward to talking with the Senator about the many plans and tools that our carriers currently offer their customers so that those who want to monitor their usage are able to do so."

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