As expected, the Federal Communications Commission will take several steps to rein in "bill shock," the jaw-dropping charges for text and data on some cell phone bills.
According to an agency fact sheet of the proposed changes, which FCC chairman Juilus Genachowski plans to outline Wednesday in advance of voting on them at its Thursday, Oct. 14, meeting, they constitute alerts for overages and better disclosure.
The bill shock rules will break down into three basic categories: over-the-limit alerts, out-of-the-country alerts and easy-to-find tools.
The proposed rules would require companies to notify customers via voice or text alerts when they are reaching their monthly limits and could start running up overage charges. For international travelers, companies would have to warn them when they are being charged additional roaming fees on a foreign network not covered by their "unlimited minute" plans.
Finally, while the FCC concedes many wireless companies already offer tools to alert customers, but it says they are "not widely available and too many consumers don't know about them."
It will also ask for comment on whether carriers should be required to cap usage per limits the customers set themselves.
Genachowski has made addressing the bill shock issue part of his move to a more consumer- driven agency. An FCC study back in April and May found that one in six mobile users (30 million) have experience bill shock, which the commission considers an increase of over $50 that comes as a surprise.
One of the incidents the FCC cites is that of a FEMA employee who ran up $30,000 in charges for texting in Haiti after the earthquake.