To Manage Wireless Accounts, Consumers Benefit from Education, Not Regulation

We recently submitted reply comments to the FCC urging them to proceed cautiously on the “bill shock” matter. According to the FCC’s 2010 survey, more than 92 percent of wireless device users are satisfied with their service. Don’t get us wrong, we’re working hard to get the remaining 8 percent, but it’s great to have so many people happy with the wireless industry.

As Chris said in a blog post last summer, whether you look at the FCC’s data, Better Business Bureau statistics or the GAO report, wireless consumers are winning. He provides a lot of great information from a variety of sources, but the bottom line is that Americans love wireless. We use our devices more than any other country yet get a better value. The average revenue per minute in the U.S. was 4 cents as compared with 16 cents in Europe, as of the end of 2009. This means U.S. consumers get four times more value for their wireless time. Combine that with European consumers using 160 minutes a month on average as compared to Americans’ 824 minutes a month and it’s clear who’s getting a superior wireless deal. In case you’re wondering where these statistics came from, they’re from Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

In addition to benefiting from the tremendous value yet using our devices more than any other country’s citizens, U.S. consumers also have a variety of choices in their wireless service or device. There are more than 630 unique wireless devices available in the U.S.  According to the FCC, more than 91 percent of Americans can choose from at least four facilities-based providers and about 65 percent of Americans live in markets with at least five facilities-based providers, not including resellers.

Faced with such intense competition, our members work hard to keep their customers happy. They are committed to preventing billing issues before they arise and resolve any issues if they do occur. They constantly strive to differentiate themselves by offering new and innovative services, account management tools and usage plans to address billing concerns and other customer service issues.

So what about “bill shock”? The Nielsen Company found that the overwhelming majority of consumers do not experience overage charges and carriers often provide substantial credits for those that do. It’s also rarely a “shock” for the customers that incur most overage charges; Nielsen found that customers with the largest overages are also the customers that most often exceed their plans.

In light of this information, it makes absolutely no sense to require our members to spend millions to modify their networks, alter their billing and customer service systems and develop new industry-wide processes for reporting roaming usage when consumers are already happy with a robustly competitive wireless ecosystem. As with all unnecessary and costly regulation, consumers ultimately lose; all regulatory costs are eventually passed down to consumers on their monthly bills.

Instead, the focus should be on education. Wireless customers don’t have to look far for the tools to manage their accounts—in most cases, you can do everything you need right from your wireless device. Wireless providers are constantly enhancing these tools and third parties release new free or low-cost apps to manage usage and prevent overages every day. If people are traveling internationally, we offer these tips from their carriers and a few apps that may help them. We also created a Facebook tab that offers this information (along with many other consumer-friendly tips).

This is a case where competition is working well for consumers, and regulation causes more harm than good.

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