FCC: Consumer charged nearly $70K for monthly wireless bill

The complaint over the nearly $70,000 charge was the ceiling on overcharges. A fifth of the complaints were about charges totaling more than $1,000, according to the paper. About 30 percent of the complaints represented people who were overcharged by less than $100.

The release of the white paper is part of a campaign by the FCC to create regulations requiring wireless companies to notify consumers before and when they have reached limits in their payment plans.

“It is a very difficult time in our economy. Millions of Americans are struggling to get by — and even a small, unexpected fee can make a big difference,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement.

Consumer protection is important "now, more than ever," he said.

“Consumers need a watchdog — and they can rest assured knowing the FCC is looking out for them,” he said.

The FCC said overcharges often result from international roaming fees, which can add thousands of dollars to a bill, unexpected charges linked to using Wi-Fi while in "airplane mode," charges for data usage and confusion about promotional rates, plans and billing.

The white paper listed examples of complaints the FCC has received from consumers:

  • "$8,553. The consumer had the service for almost eight months and was never previously charged more than $59 a month. Consumer says they were not shown how to check usage, and then received this bill for Internet usage."
  • "$98. The consumer, a senior citizen on a fixed income, reports that her carrier has overcharged for different amounts every month, and if the bill is not paid, service will be discontinued."

The FCC is expected to launch a rulemaking proceeding on this issue on Thursday.