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Guidelines To Reduce Cell Phone Bill Shock

Some people have chosen cheap cell phone plans to reduce their monthly cell phone bill only to suffer later from cell phone bill shock after receiving a bill with excessive overage fees. But the days of bill shock may be coming to an end… or at least winding down.

New Cell Phone Industry Guidelines

With the threat of possible government regulation to reduce cell phone bill shock, the industry instead decided to adopt voluntary guidelines. Under the guidelines, known as the Wireless Consumer Usage Notification Guidelines, participating wireless providers will send free alerts to customers both before and after they reach the monthly limits on voice, text and data. The four major wireless service providers — AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile and Verizon — and others that when combined serve over 97% of cell phone users have agreed to the guidelines.

These new guidelines will be adopted under the voluntary Consumer Code for Wireless Service that was adopted by the industry in 2003. This Code is recognized nationally as the standard for establishing a baseline of certain expectations and for ensuring customers have access to enough information to make an educated decision on wireless services and products.

The overage alerts will be free and customers would automatically receive them unless they choose to opt out of receiving them.

The Timeline For The Guidelines

The new cell phone guidelines were announced at a press conference on October 17th, 2011 by the head of CITA, a trade group for the wireless industry, the chairman of the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and an executive of Consumers Union, a consumer advocacy group.

This is good news for many cell phone users, since the majority support some form of bill shock legislation, but the free notifications won’t necessarily be effective right away. Under the guidelines participating wireless carriers will need to provide two of the four notifications for voice, text, data and international roaming by October 17th, 2012. It doesn’t specify which two, meaning it can be any of two of these. Alerts for all four must be provided by April 17th, 2013.

In the meantime it is important for cell phone users to continue to monitor their usage to avoid overage charges. Many wireless service providers allow you to check minutes/text/data available throughout the month. It’s good to take advantage of this.

Keeping Cheap Cell Phone Plans Cheap

If you take the time to compare cell phone plans to find one that is cheap or at least affordable it can be crushing to get monthly bills with hefty overage charges. It is estimated that as many as 30 million Americans have experienced bill shock at some point. For some this has meant an additional $100 on their monthly bill and for some it has added up to over $1,000 for a single month.

Some people feel these overage fees do more than generate added income during overage months. The accurately described bill shock people feel often encourages them to change to a more expensive monthly plan so they don’t have to experience the exorbitant fees again. The expected higher monthly expense for a more expensive plan is often easier to tolerate than the fear of finding overage charges on your monthly bill.

Remember these guidelines don’t eliminate overage charges; they are simply meant to warn users they have hit their plan limits and that an overage is about to happen. It’s up to the user from there to either quit using the phone or accept the fees that come with further use.

To keep your cell phone plan cheap or at least reasonable it is important to find a plan that truly fits your needs, but it is also important to know your plan limits and stay within those limits. For some people an unlimited plan is really the cheapest way to go.

Who May Benefit From This Most

This change to help stop cell phone bill shock may be most helpful to those with cell phone family plans. It can be difficult to track the usage of everyone in the family constantly, especially for families with teens who use their phone all the time.

This will also benefit people who aren’t as savvy or good about checking their available minutes/text/data and monitoring where they are as far as usage for the month.

Avoid Overage Charges With A Prepaid Cell Phone Plan

If you hate overage charges and tracking your usage to avoid them consider a prepaid cell phone plan. Even some of the cheapest prepaid cell phone plans now offer smartphones with data options, so these plans now fit a wider variety of needs.

With prepaid cell phones you buy a set number of minutes, text and data with a set period of service. Once you use all of your minutes or come to the end of your service date you can buy more as needed. This type of plan eliminates the shock of hefty overage charges and it isn’t tied to a contract.

Whether you decide a prepaid cell plan is a good way for you to avoid excessive charges or you want to stick with a contract plan, hopefully your chances of experiencing cell phone bill shock will be greatly reduced in the not-to-distant future thanks to these new guidelines.