New Protections for Cell Phone Customers

CALPIRG Education Fund

San Francisco, CA – Cell phone companies will alert consumers when they approach and then exceed their limits on voice, data or texting. Users will also receive an alert when their phone connects to a cellular system in a foreign country, which incurs pricy roaming fees. The California Public Interest Education Fund (CALPIRG) congratulated regulators and industry leaders on their joint announcement of these new consumer protections.

“While some carriers already provide similar alerts, this new industry wide practice will protect consumers from bill shock at the end of the month” said Jon Fox, Consumer Advocate at CALPIRG.

“Bill shock” caused by overage charges has become a significant and expensive problem for the nearly 300 million wireless consumers in the United States. In a 2010 study the FCC found that one in six cell phone users had experienced bill shock, with 23 percent of those receiving unexpected charges of $100 or more on their bills. As part of the agreement with regulators, cell phone companies also agreed to publicize tools for consumers to monitor their own usage.

“With the growing use of cell phones for data use and texting, overcharges are another revenue source and a serious nuisance for consumers” said Jon Fox, adding “Now that companies will have to warn consumers before they go past their limits, consumers will be able to save their money.”

Wireless companies have over a year to fully implement a free and automatic alert system – either by text or voice. Consumers will then be able to opt out of the service if they choose. Until the new agreement is fully implemented, CALPIRG advises consumers to sign up for overage alert services, monitor their monthly usage, and adjust their phone plans as needed. For consumers who still encounter the occasional  overage charges “It never hurts to ask your provider for a break or even a discount” suggested Jon Fox.



The California Public Interest Research Group Education Fund (CALPIRG) is a result-oriented public interest group that protects consumers, encourages a fair sustainable economy, and fosters responsive democratic governance.