St. Louis, Mo., June 25, 2012 – Popular games, music downloads and online surfing can run up cell phone bills in a hurry. Consumers can avoid big bills by learning to set limits on data usage for themselves and any teens or children who have access to the phones, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises.
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The cell phone industry is the number one source of BBB complaints nationwide and second for the BBB Serving Eastern Missouri and Southern Illinois. Consumers filed 38,420 complaints last year on cell phone companies. The St. Louis BBB processed 2,120 complaints about telephone companies, including cell phone complaints.
“Cell phones have become indispensable for many of us, but monthly bills can get out of hand if we don’t pay attention,” said Michelle L. Corey, BBB president and CEO. “Learning to use the controls available from your cell phone company can help you avoid nasty surprises when the bills come due.”
The BBB surveyed major cell phone carriers about the controls they provide to customers. The data plans and packages provided by some carriers are listed below:
AT&T: Customers can use “Smart Limits of Wireless” to set a dollar limit on usage or to control downloads. The program sends a notice when the customer is nearing the limit, then stops the service until the next billing cycle.
Sprint: Sprint Mobile Controls allow customers to monitor usage, with options to lock a phone at certain times of the day or on demand. Parents can use the plan to control how much children talk, text or use data.
Verizon: Customers can use “My Verizon” usage controls to limit usage for each line in a family plan, including limits on voice minutes, messaging, data and content purchases such as ringtones, games and downloads. The controls send a text message alert when the user is approaching limits. Once the allowance is used, the plan has an option to restrict usage.
U.S. Cellular: Customers can use “My Account” tools to oversee usage. Parents can receive text message alerts when a child’s data usage is close to the limit, or they can block data use on a specific line or handset.
T-Mobile did not respond to the BBB’s request for information, but the company’s website has information about Family Allowances, a plan that allows parents to set up-front limits on family plan minutes, messages, and downloads.
The BBB recommends that customers contact their carriers directly to find out what usage control tools may be available to them. Cell phone plans vary widely, and some tools may not be available with all plans.
Before you do business with any company, check its BBB Business Review by calling 314-645-3300 or going to www.bbb.org.
Contacts: Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-584-6800, email@example.com, or Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, 314-584-6743 or 314-681-4719 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org