- What Consumer Issues are Covered in the Consumer Code?
The Consumer Code focuses on addressing issues of greatest concern to consumers in selecting and managing their wireless service. For example, signatories will adhere to the Code's 11 points, including commitments to disclose rates, additional taxes, fees, surcharges and terms of service; provide coverage maps; make customer service readily accessible; allow a trial period for new service; and provide free usage alerts to avoid unexpected overage charges.
- Which Wireless Carriers are Committed to the Consumer Code?
Originally developed in 2003, CTIA periodically reviews the Code to ensure it reflects the industry's innovations and consumers' needs and expectations. In July 2010, the Code was updated to reflect new and increasingly popular offerings by carriers for consumers. The 11th point to the Code was added in October 2011, which called for providers to send postpaid customers with free usage alerts to help them avoid unexpected overage charges. The Code has been widely supported by many national, regional and rural wireless carriers including AT&T, Cellcom, CellularOne of NE Arizona, Clearwire, Illinois Valley Cellular, SouthernLINC Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile USA, Unicel, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless. The Code's signatories cover almost 97 percent of U.S. wireless subscribers. Additional carriers have indicated they will comply with the voluntary code.
- What Were the 2010 Updates to the Code?
Some of the changes to the Code include disclosure of data allowances offered in a service plan, whether there are any prohibitions on data service usage and disclosure of whether there are network management practices that will have a material impact on the customer's wireless data experience. The Code also states that prepaid service providers must disclose the period of time during which any prepaid balance is available for use.
- Will Each Company Implement All 11 Points?
Every wireless carrier that signs the voluntary Consumer Code is committing to adhere to all 11 points. Compliance with the Code is reviewed and recertified on an annual basis. Carriers that comply with the Code receive the Seal of Wireless Quality/Consumer Information, which they can display on their company's website and collateral materials.
- Why is a 'Voluntary' Code Better for Consumers than Government Regulation?
The Code is designed to give consumers the information they need to make informed decisions regarding their wireless service while still permitting the innovation consumers have come to expect from the wireless industry. Regulations, no matter how well-intentioned, simply cannot be as flexible and responsive to consumer needs as a self-regulatory code.
- Who Will Enforce the Voluntary Consumer Code?
Wireless carriers must recertify on an annual basis that they are in compliance with the Code. If a provider is found to be non–compliant, the carrier will not be permitted to display the Seal of Wireless Quality/Consumer Information. One of the benefits of competition is that each carrier's competitors will be watching other companies' compliance and will respond accordingly.
- Is the Industry Adopting this Consumer Code because of Increased Consumer Complaints?
While the wireless industry has experienced fantastic growth in recent years, per capita wireless com-plaints have fallen. In March 2010, the Better Business Bureau stated that 97 percent of consumer concerns are resolved by the wireless industry. In the FCC's consumer survey released in June 2010, they found that, "92 percent of cell phone users are very or somewhat satisfied with their cell phone service overall." Data collected by the FCC shows that the wireless industry receives fewer complaints than many others, including the more regulated wireline industry.
- Will the Consumer Code Make the Wireless Industry more Competitive?
The Code was designed to help consumers make informed choices when selecting and managing their wireless services in a competitive market. The wireless industry is by far the most competitive sector of telecommunications. The U.S. is home to more than 20 percent of global 3G/4G subscribers (164 million) In addition, the U.S. has the highest minutes of use (MOUs) per month per user and the lowest average revenue per minute of service of the 26 OECD countries tracked by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
- When was the Code Last Updated?
In July 2010, the Code was updated to reflect new and increasingly popular offerings by carriers for consumers. The 11th point to the Code was added in October 2011. The "Wireless Consumer Usage Notification Guidelines" called for providers to send postpaid customers with free usage alerts to help them avoid unexpected overage charges.