Cellphone carriers agree to no more surprise overages

November 5, 2011 1:12:40 AM PDT
Cellphone carriers have agreed to start letting you know when you are getting close to going over your monthly allotments of minutes and data. It goes into effect next year, but you don't have to wait until then to save.

This announcement puts some real teeth into the idea of mobile alerts, but it isn't a consumer's only choice. There are ways to deal with cellphone bill shock right now.

If there is one thing mobile device users fear, it is overages. Jeff Blyskal from Oakland knows all about that, he received a bill that was 50 percent higher than expected.

"So it was very surprising and it turns out it was an overage charges for 199 minutes," said Blyskal.

Being hit without warning with huge charges is about to be a thing of the past. New Federal Communications Commission guidelines require cellphone companies to alert customers both before and after they incur overage charges.

Steve Largent is an industry spokesperson from CTIA, The Wireless Association.

"Wireless providers are going to be sending free alerts to their subscribers to help them manage their usage and avoid unexpected overage charges," said Largent.

The new rules start rolling out next year and that sounds good to Angie Hicks, from Angie's List. However, she says there is more to do than just wait for the new rules.

"No one looks out for you more than you do," said Hicks.

Hicks says many consumers waste money not by going over their monthly allowance, but by buying too much in the first place.

"One of the things that people don't often do is truly evaluate their own usage patterns and make sure that you're in a plan that's the right size. Sometimes we are in plans that are too big," said Hicks.

That can easily cost you $10 a month. That may not seem like much, but it adds up. Hicks also says pick up the phone and ask for a better deal.

"You might see deals on TV that are offering low introductory rates. If you are a great customer and call and ask for the retention department, ask for those same deals yourself and a lot of times you are going to get them," said Hicks.

And if you don't and they won't budge, you should move to another carrier.


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