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Wireless providers to warn customers in danger of exceeding monthly plan limits

In order to stave off more Federal Communications Commission regulation of the cellphone industry, the CTIA wireless association has agreed to impose new billing practices that will help customers avoid “bill shock.”

The new guidelines are expected to be announced today, and call on wireless providers to alert customers as they approach the monthly limits of their voice, text, and data plans. They also call on companies to provide warnings if the customer is incurring international roaming charges.

The new rules proposed by CTIA are part of an effort to prevent the FCC from further regulating the wireless industry and imposing strict guidelines of their own regarding customer notification. The wireless provider association has claimed that additional government regulation and bureaucratic oversight would lead to higher bills.

The FCC has agreed to hold off on its own wireless-regulation bills if the CTIA makes good on these new guidelines, and has given wireless providers 12 months to initiate two of the four types of plan alerts — voice, data, text, and roaming. All four alerts must be adopted within 18 months.

A survey conducted by the FCC last year found that one in every six wireless service providers has found unexpected charges on their bills — often due to excess usage fees or increased roaming rates they were unaware of.

A similar notification policy was adopted in Europe last year, and requires notification of wireless service customers when they reach 80 percent of their monthly plan limits.