BBB Advice: Use Your Cell Phone Carrier’s Data Limit Protection to Your Advantage

June 22, 2012
When it comes to monitoring your child’s cell phone and data use, there are easy steps parents can take to ensure that their monthly bills do not come as an unpleasant surprise. Better Business Bureau serving Eastern North Carolina asked the major cell phone carriers for tips on overseeing family data usage.

In 2011, BBB received 38,420 complaints nationwide against cellular telephone services and equipment, making it the number one complaint category in the BBB system. While many of those complaints were due to data billing issues, there are ways to prevent this and the cell phone carriers are willing to work with consumers to monitor and, in some cases, lower their bills.

“It is important for parents to be proactive and aware of their child’s data usage,” said Toby Barfield, president and CEO of BBB serving Eastern North Carolina. “The cell phone industry has put together different data plans and restrictions that parents may want to consider if their child has a persistent problem of going over their data limit.”

BBB has put together a compilation of the major cell phone carriers’ data plans and packages:

For AT&T users, parents should consider Smart Limits of Wireless, an online parental controls tool. Smart Limits for Wireless allows parents to set limits on how and when their child can use their phone, including setting a dollar limit for downloadable purchases. As the child approaches the download limits, he or she will receive an advance warning notification. Once a limit is reached, another notice is sent that the service will be stopped until the next billing cycle begins.

For Sprint users, parents can take advantage of Sprint Mobile Controls. Sprint Mobile Controls allow parents to clearly understand their child’s talk, text and app use habits. Parents can lock their child’s phone during dinner, school or late at night.

For U.S. Cellular users, parents can utilize the My Account tool to oversee their child’s data usage. The My Account tool allows parents to receive text message alerts when their data usage is close to the limit, as well as block data to a specific handset.

For Verizon users, parents can set up and manage Usage Controls through their My Verizon account. Through the My Verizon Usage Controls, customers can keep a tight rein on their accounts’ usage. Families can control wireless budgets with monthly usage allowances on each controlled line for voice minutes, messaging, data and content purchases such as ringtones, games and downloads. They will receive free text message alerts when limits are nearing and when they are reached. Once the allowance is reached, there is also an option to restrict usage.

For more information pertaining to your individual cell phone carrier, BBB recommends contacting them directly to see what data overage protection plans can be applied to your personal account.

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