Even though the FCC has proposed rules to control bill shock,” the telecom industry still could see lawsuits hit the likes of Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobility and T-Mobile USA.
Thats according to one analyst, who puts Verizon at the greatest risk for class-action suits.
Verizon faces a PR nightmare as it prepares to issue about $50 million in refunds to 15 million customers for mistaken” charges. And even before Thursdays notice of proposed rulemaking to regulate bill shock, the FCC already had been investigating consumer complaints about expenses for undesired data access. In September, Verizon said it would repay those costs throughout October and November, although that didnt stop the FCC from taking more action to protect subscribers.
And that, says investment bank Medley Global telecom analyst Jeff Silva, may have spurred new possibilities.
The real cost to Verizon and other carriers could come as a result of FCC and Congress publicizing bill shock such that the plaintiffs’ bar will be awakened to a new business opportunity in the wireless litigation space,” Silva wrote in an Oct. 14 client memo. Two class-suits on phantom data charges are in full swing, and more could soon surface as a result of the FCC’s action and the viral media attention that follows,” Silva added.
The observation comes as FCC commissioners on Thursday agreed to try to force mobile service providers to alert users about to exceed monthly limits on voice, text and data plans, to avoid extra charges. There are at least two instances of excessive bills one amounted to $30,000, through T-Mobile USA, and the other hit $68,505, through an unspecified carrier. The FCC is taking comments on the matter over the next few months.
Congress, too, has been exploring the bill shock problem. On Sept. 30, Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., introduced legislation that would require carriers to tell subscribers when theyve used 80 percent of their monthly limits, and that would mandate customer consent before charging for services not included in contracts.