Consumer Confidential: Cell bill shock. BlackBerry. iPhone sales.
-- As my colleague Jim Puzzanghera reported in Monday's paper, wireless companies will finally make it easier for customers to avoid sky-high bills. AT&T, Verizon and other major cellphone providers have agreed with U.S. regulators to begin sending alerts to customers who are approaching monthly voice, text or data limits. The aim is to help them avoid hefty additional charges that cause what consumer advocates call bill shock. Under the voluntary industry guidelines, companies also will send alerts when customers exceed their plans' limits and are subject to overage charges. Customers traveling abroad will be warned that they are about to incur often pricey international roaming fees. The companies agreed to be customer-friendly only after federal officials made clear that new regulations would be imposed if they didn't.
-- Speaking of cellphones, BlackBerry customers are being offered some free apps to keep them from fleeing the service after nasty outages last week. Research in Motion says the apps, worth more than $100, will be made available over the coming weeks on BlackBerry App World. They include iSpeech Translator, Bejeweled and Texas Hold'em Poker 2. The offer runs until the end of the year. Research in Motion also will offer its enterprise customers a month of free technical support. Last week's blackout interrupted email and Internet services for tens of millions of users globally and left company leaders apologizing profusely.
-- One last wireless news item (giving me the hat trick): Apple says it sold more than 4 million units of the new iPhone model in three days. It's selling more than twice as fast as the previous model did when it launched last year. Apple and its phone company partners started selling the iPhone 4S on Friday in the U.S., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and Britain. That's two more launch countries than last year. There are also more phone companies selling the phone. In the U.S., Sprint Nextel is the new carrier. When Apple launched the iPhone 4 last year, it sold 1.7 million in the first three days.
-- David Lazarus
Photo: Cellphone "bill shock" could be become less frequent. Credit: Randi Lynn Beach / For The Times