How shocking is your wireless bill?

The U.S. federal telecom regulator is looking into wireless “bill shock,” that sickening feeling subscribers get when the get a bill that’s significantly more than they expect.

“We’ve gotten hundreds of complaints about bill shock,” said Joel Gurin, chief of the Federal Communication Commission’s consumer and governmental affairs bureau. “But this is an avoidable problem.” One possible solution: Forcing carriers to issue text alerts to subscribers automatically if they run up roaming charges or get close to a set data limit. The European Union already demands carriers it regulates do this.

It’s not a bad idea and would certainly head off some ugly confrontations with carriers.

How bad is it up here? According to his latest report, the Commissioner for Telecommunications Complaints received 3,214 complaints on wired, wireless and long distance services in the fiscal year ending Oct. 31, 2009. Of all the complaints, 34.6 per cent dealt with billing issues, the biggest category. The report didn’t break down what per cent of that were from wireless customers, but of all complaints 38 per cent dealt with wireless-related issues (about 1,187).

The commissioner is a referee of last resort for telecom complaints from small businesses and consumers that haven’t been resolved first by the 38 carriers and operators who come under its authority.

On the other hand, this is only the third year the complaints office has been running and the number of complaints its gets has been rising as word of the office spreads.

Speaking of which, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, which oversees the complaints commissioner, will hold apublic consultation Sept. 27 on how the office is doing.The review, mandated by the federal cabinet, which created the office in 2007, will look into the commission’s mandate, remedies, public awareness and whether it should still require all telecom service providers to come under the authority of the office.

Meanwhile, I’d like to hear your wireless billing horror stories and if the problems were resolved to your satisfaction.

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