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FCC looks to prevent surprise cell phone bills

By Blake Ellis, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- If federal regulators get their way, you may soon be warned before you receive another unexpectedly high bill from your cell phone company.

The Federal Communications Commission said Tuesday it is seeking public comment on proposed regulations that would require wireless phone companies to notify customers of any charges that exceed their monthly plans.

Customers would therefore be alerted before being charged additional fees for extra data usage, roaming or text messaging, the FCC said in a statement.

The FCC said it has received hundreds of complaints from customers who received surprisingly high phone bills. The new rule would aim to help wireless users avoid "bill shock."

"We are hearing from consumers about unpleasant surprises on their bills," Joel Gurin, chief of the FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, said in a statement. "There can be many causes of bill shock, including unclear or misunderstood advertising, unanticipated roaming or data charges, and other problems. All can lead to charges that people don't expect to get."

The FCC has therefore decided to begin gathering information from the public about whether or not alerting customers about these unanticipated charges would be beneficial.

The plan would be similar to a rule in the European Union that requires cell phone companies to notify customers via text message if they are running up extra charges.

The CTIA, a wireless industry association, released a statement after the FCC's announcement saying that carriers already keeps customers well informed when they reach their monthly cell phone usage limits.

"We look forward to educating the Commission on all of the carriers' activities and offerings so that customers can stay informed," CTIA President and CEO Steve Largent said in a statement. To top of page

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