SOURCE: Acision

Acision

July 15, 2010 10:00 ET

Mobile Data Leader Acision Outlines Steps to Avoid "Bill Shock" in the U.S.

PLANO, TX--(Marketwire - July 15, 2010) -  According to the findings of a recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) survey*, one in six cell phone users -- about 30 million people across the U.S. -- have experienced "bill shock" as a result of a dramatic increase in mobile service charges from one month to the next. Acision, a world leader in mobile data, presents a unique perspective on the issue of bill shock, given the company's years of providing solutions that enable carriers to manage and monetize their services, and has outlined its position in a response to the FCC's consultation on this matter. 

Major causes of bill shock include consumer confusion about mobile data charges when roaming, as well as a lack of alert notifications being sent by carriers to their subscribers to inform them, in real-time, that they are about to reach spend limits and updating them on the charges they will accumulate if they exceed their spending limit.

In an effort to eliminate "bill shock," the FCC is looking to implement usage alerts and cut-off controls similar to those currently required by the European Union. However, Acision believes that instead of waiting for FCC measures to become mandatory, this is an opportunity for carriers to quickly address these issues by proactively providing the transparency users require while also providing empowerment to the consumer by enabling them to control and manage their spend. Carriers who introduce innovative real-time charging technology will have a competitive advantage, as well as regain user trust, thereby encouraging service uptake, reducing churn and calls to customer service to discuss billing queries.

"Today this issue of bill shock has become an industry-wide problem, and to stamp it out ideally requires a holistic approach whereby carriers provide subscribers with increased control and transparency over their mobile spend," said Chris Jenkins, Head of Mobile Data Charging at Acision.

"Provided that real-time access to the network elements can be achieved, controls, usage alerts and other initiatives are possible without requiring the replacement of a wireless provider's current billing infrastructure. This can be fully implemented as an adjunct solution and enables the wireless provider to empower users by giving them the ability to set their own limits on their expenditure and build out their own monthly tariff plans. This not only improves the user experience but can ensure further customer confidence which in turn encourages increased usage of mobile services when at home and abroad and drives up revenue streams for the operator," continued Jenkins.

Acision has identified three keys elements to curb bill shock: enabling consumer data usage monitoring, enabling real-time spend control, and working toward better consumer understanding of data services.

Consumer Data Usage Monitoring
There are a number of ways in which consumers can currently monitor their usage and check remaining usage allocations, depending on the service and the functional capabilities of the charging solution being used by their service provider:

  1. Sending SMS to a short code number which retrieves remaining usage allocations on the consumer's service bundle. This method also provides the subscriber with an effective receipt of usage
  2. Checking online usage history in a web self-care portal
  3. Some operators may provide a phone app to check remaining allowances of voice minutes and messages and view usage history

"The ability for consumers to monitor their usage and remaining spend-allowance is dependent on the operator making monitoring functionalities available to consumers and then educating them on these functionalities," said Jenkins.

Enabling Real-Time Spend Control
Using a suitable real-time charging system, it is possible for consumers to configure spending limits for each service and be alerted when they are close to reaching their predetermined limits. Consumers then also have the option to authorize an additional spend limit, buy a new bundle with additional allowances, or suspend the service.

"In the case of the EU data roaming legislation, consumers have a default spend limit of EUR 50 per month unless they request a higher or lower limit with their operator," said Jenkins. "Once 80 percent of the defined limit has been used, the consumer will receive a notification message with the option to extend the limit or buy additional allowance."

Understanding Data Services
Different services require different types of usage control, based mainly on the consumer's understanding of the service units. Consumers understand "number of voice minutes" and "number of messages remaining." However, in the case of data services, it is difficult for the consumer to understand the amount of traffic (i.e. MB or GB) they are using and the rate of consumption.

"For data services -- where charging is again increasingly being based on volume -- it makes more sense and is more transparent for the consumer to have the real-time charging system maintain and calculate monetary spend limits and send notifications that are based on monetary value remaining, rather than volume remaining," said Jenkins. "This empowers the consumer to control their spend and develops a trusting and more profitable relationship with their operator in the long run."

Acision spokespeople are available for comment on any issue regarding bill shock, including potential FCC regulation and the EU roaming legislation.

To download Acision's whitepaper on bill shock, please visit http://www.acision.com/News-and-Events/In-depth-Articles/All-Destinations/2010/Reducing-Bill-Shock-in-the-US.aspx.

For more background on Acision's analysis and perspective on bill shock, contact Sarah Thomas at acision@topazpartners.com or 781-404-2427.

*Source: FCC SURVEY CONFIRMS CONSUMERS EXPERIENCE MOBILE BILL SHOCK AND CONFUSION ABOUT EARLY TERMINATION FEES (May 26, 2010)

http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-298415A1.pdf

NOTES TO EDITORS

About Acision
As a world leader in mobile data, Acision powers innovation and profitable growth in mobile data services. As a pioneer of mobile messaging, Acision's real time mobile data solutions support its customers worldwide to drive new revenues with innovative services while controlling, optimizing and monetizing data traffic. For more information, visit Acision at www.acision.com

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