About a year ago, various wireless service providers found themselves under investigation by the FCC for sky-high overage fees. Of course, they protested this charge in the form of hilarious statements
, expressing "concern" that their customers might be "confused" if they were warned about impending overage charges. Some even went so far as to claim that customers obviously wanted overage charges because (get this) customers racked up overage charges
"For accounts that repeatedly go into overage, it is reasonable to infer that it is a matter of consumer choice. These customers are either indifferent to overages or are making the deliberate decision to incur overages because it is the most cost-efficient solution for their usage patterns."
Or maybe, just maybe, customers wanted to be informed of these possible overage charges but no cell phone company was interested in telling them. While tools are available for consumers to track their own usage, this is not something that's promoted very heavily (or indeed, at all) by most phone companies.
Well, the FCC has finally stared down the wireless carriers, who have decided to voluntarily (through gritted teeth) implement
many of the rules suggested by the FCC, rather than deal with being regulated by the government.
Customers will receive free text alerts in real-time when they're about to exceed their limits, CNET reports. The move is supposed to cut down on the "bill shock" people may feel when hit with sky-high rates for extra usage. Wireless carriers will also warn customers who travel overseas about the additional fees they may incur.
Of course, this being a government-related decision (and one performed under presumable duress), don't expect to be notified any time soon.
Under the volunteer measures, wireless carriers have 18 months to put their warning systems in place.
Not only that, but your months-away warnings may not be timely enough, especially for those of you with notorious text-fiends (read: teenage children) on your mobile plans.
Some providers, including AT&T and Verizon Wireless, already warn their customers as their data use approaches the limit. However, these warnings may be delayed. AT&T, for example, takes 24 hours.
24 hours?!? That's like 3 years of texting for normal users! The good news is that sometime within the next two years, your mobile carrier may
have to speed up its notification system to something approaching "real time."
Until then, you may want to consider switching to an unlimited plan or putting your kids up for adoption, whichever is cheaper.