Wireless industry tells the FCC its 'bill shock' survey is bunk

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By Cecilia Kang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 16, 2010; 8:39 AM

Wireless industry trade group CTIA on Wednesday questioned the Federal Communications Commission's recent survey on cell phone bill shock, pointing to what it called methodological holes in the agency's analysis.

In a blog post, CTIA vice president of government regulatory affairs, Chris Guttman-McCabe, criticized the agency's choice of "inflammatory" language ¿ "bill shock" ¿ to describe surprises consumers faced with unexpected increases in their monthly cell phone bill.

The FCC declined to comment on CTIA's blog.

The agency last May said 30 million people, according to its survey, said they experienced bill shock and that the agency would begin to address steps to make billing more predictable. The agency said one idea was to send text alerts to users when they incur extra charges or go beyond minutes or data of their plans.

McCabe doubted those figures. He said the overwhelming majority of respondents were under 18, which should have prompted survey takers to end their interviews.

"How many people under the age of 18 actually have ever seen a wireless bill? But wait, there's more¿," he wrote.

Next, he said he was concerned by the FCC's labeling of the survey results as "bill shock" when the term was never used in the survey questions.

And while a portion of those surveyed ¿ that ends up representing an estimated 30 million people ¿ said they had indeed seen sudden increases in their bills, McCabe said that could have been on purpose. The agency didn't follow up with a question on whether that sudden increase was a surprise or upsetting.


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