Americans For Tax Reform Attacks Attempt To Combat "Bill Shock"

May 13, 2010 5:20 pm ET — Walid Zafar

For years, consumer rights advocates have been complaining about the deceptive pricing practices of the cell phone industry.  According to a 2009 report by the Government Accountability Office, "about 34 percent of wireless phone users responsible for paying for their service received unexpected charges and about 31 percent had difficulty understanding their bill at least some of the time. Also during this time, almost one-third of wireless users who contacted customer service about a problem did so because of problems related to billing."

During the past several years, more and more irate consumers have taken their complaints straight to the Federal Communications Commission.  The agency has finally decided to step in and is now looking into the feasibility of reform that would require carriers to give consumers "more useful information about their service usage once they are using a plan to prevent them from incurring unexpected charges, or to adjust their plan as their usage patterns change."

That doesn't sit well with Americans for Tax Reform, which sees the FCC's move as yet another example of the federal government's attempt to "emulate the European Union and maternally cradle individuals to the greatest extent possible."

You would expect a group that routinely references poor and middle-class Americans in their campaign to eliminate the Internal Revenue Service to back a measure that would protect consumers from predatory practices.  Instead, ATR proposes three simple ways to combat so-called bill shock:

  • Not assuming an advertised plan is the one you are signing up for.
  • Looking at your cell phone to see if you are in a roaming area.
  • Telling your teen to stop sending hundreds of texts under the dinner table.

It's that simple. An $18,000 bill? Tough luck.  The role of government, according to ATR, is not to "baby individuals who don't know how to use their cell phones, tools already available to them, or read the contracts and plans that come with them."