Survey Finds Most Consumers Do Not Check Cell Phone Usage Despite Available Tools

Findings Cast Doubt on Proposed FCC Regulations, ACI Says in Filing

WASHINGTON- February 3, 2011- A survey released today by the American Consumer Institute (ACI) finds that although aware of their availability, the majority of consumers do not regularly use tools that allow them to check their cell phone usage or to place limits on their wireless devices.  In comments filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as part of its “Bill Shock” proceeding, ACI highlights findings from its latest consumer survey, which support its conclusion that sufficient consumer tools exist for avoiding overage in wireless bills, but consumers may not be fully taking advantage of them. 

“The relatively low use of existing tools, which can help consumers avoid additional fees on their cell phone bills, suggests that there is no basis for new regulations that mandate additional tools,” noted ACI president Steve Pociask.

According to the consumer survey research filed today with the FCC, while 77 percent of consumers said their carriers allowed them to check on usage, two-thirds of this group said they rarely or never used this tool.  Additionally, major wireless carriers enable subscribers to set some form of limits on post-paid accounts, but only 12 percent of those who were aware of these options said they used them on a monthly basis.

“As the findings of our survey indicate, educating consumers about existing management tools and the benefit of using them is needed, but forcing consumers and carriers into a set of one-size-fits-all solutions would add costs and limit choices without clear need or benefit,” Pociask added.  “The genius of competitive markets is that consumers drive change by exercising their right to choose.”

Upon review of other filed comments and its own reading of other public data, ACI’s filing reported that it found no evidence to support the FCC’s intervention into the wireless service market.  ACI noted other data that suggests only 1 percent of wireless consumers experience a significant overage per year.  ACI’s filing also reported the Commission’s own data does not support its claim that 30 million Americans have experienced unexpected increases in their wireless bills. 

“The extent of the problem highlighted by the Commission appears to be grossly overstated and does not provide the clear support to justify rulemaking,” said Pociask.  “On the one hand, we agree that unexpected wireless charges are certainly undesirable; however, these unexpected charges do not by themselves make the case for government regulation.”

Click here for a copy of the survey research results – aci-bill-shock-tables

Click here for a copy of the FCC filing – aci-bill-shock-replies