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Feds say wireless companies are reducing ‘bill shock’

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WASHINGTON (CNN) — “Bill shock,” that moment you open your wireless phone bill and are floored by expensive charges for exceeding data, text and voice minutes, is becoming less of a problem, federal officials said Wednesday.

The Federal Communications Commission set an April 2013 deadline for wireless phone companies to comply with its usage-based alert program. The program mandates that phone companies provide customers with free, automatic usage-based alerts when they are nearing plan limits.

More than 97% of wireless phone customers are on track by early next year to receive warning messages when they’re about to exceed their wireless plan’s allotted usage limits, the FCC said. The program is supported by consumer advocacy groups and The Wireless Association (CTIA), the lobbying arm of the wireless industry.

“Today, by harnessing technology to empower consumers, almost all Americans can receive alerts to help avoid unexpected charges, giving them the information they need to manage monthly wireless bills. I’m pleased to report that we’re on track to full industry compliance by April,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement in which he lauded the compliance efforts of wireless phone companies.

Wednesday’s announcement by the FCC came on the one-year anniversary of the program, which is part of Genachowski’s “Consumer Empowerment Agenda,” aimed at providing resources to help customers prevent mystery fees, bill shock, cramming and improve industry transparency on what charges show up on a customer’s bill.

There are more than 320 million wireless subscriptions in the U.S., according to CTIA, and the U.S. wireless industry, is valued at $195.5 billion — larger than publishing, agriculture, hotels and lodging, air transportation, motion picture and recording and motor vehicle manufacturing industry segments.

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