New FCC policy will require price transparency from wireless companies

We've all experienced the difficulty of shopping for a new phone plan. Even shoppers going inside the store might have trouble understanding what they're signing up for and how much they'll be paying each month.

The government now requires wireless companies to label their phone plans.

"The FCC, a few years back came up with this idea of coming up with a way for consumers to more easily digest the information they're hearing from broadband providers," Verizon's Steve Van Dinter said.

He told me the new labels were already familiar to consumers since they looked like the nutritional labels on grocery items. Easy to read, easy to comprehend.

"You're going to see at the top what the monthly price is," Van Dinter explains. "And what you're going to see as you go down, is whether are there any additional charges or terms that are revised."

Verizon is already using the labels before the FCC's April 10th deadline. You'll see them on Verizon's website and in stores.

Each representative has a tablet to display the labels to help customers decide on a plan. The FCC requires the labels to be visible and available to consumers at any point of sale.

Consumers often sign up for a plan at one price and are shocked to find out it was just an introductory price, and the phone bill jumps by $50 or so a month. The broadband labels spell out those terms along with all fees and taxes.

"The top piece, the $80 that you saw and the additional fees, that is the most you will ever see on your bill because it doesn't include those discounts," Van Dinter said. "So you'll see the discounts in this section, and that will be subtracted off that top piece."

Another key part of the broadband labels is information about upload and download speeds provided in the plan.

Van Dinter says the labels are available online and can be printed out to help consumers compare prices and plans of all the carriers.

"And what you can do is then take these labels side-by-side with any provider you're thinking of doing business with, and see what you're getting and what you're paying."

If consumers don't see the labels displayed in stores or websites by April 10th, you should file a complaint with the FCC.

The April deadline is for major wireless carriers such as Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile.

Smaller carriers (those with fewer than 100,000 customers) have until October to comply with the FCC requirement.

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