In the government's latest effort to emulate the European Union and maternally cradle individuals to the greatest extent possible, the Federal Communications Commission wants to mandate that cells phone users get messages keeping them apprised of roaming charges and phone usage.

Let’s ignore the fact that similar features already exist for consumers to monitor their usage and billing (apps, settings and software on the phone, texting the carrier to get updates, etc).  The point against this absurd undertaking is much broader than that: it is always a consumer’s (and company’s) responsibility to read and understand a contract they sign when purchasing a good, not the government’s responsibility to take care of it for them.

The FCC is justifying this initiative by citing a few hundred comments received (out of a few hundred million cell phone users) and saying these standards are already in place in Europe.  They say: “There can be many causes of bill shock, including unclear or misunderstood advertising, unanticipated roaming or data charges, and other problems.”

Yet, these causes can be avoided by a few basic steps like:

  • Not assuming an advertised plan is the one you are signing up for.
  • Looking at your cell phone to see if you are in a roaming area.
  • Telling your teen to stop sending hundreds of texts under the dinner table.

Contrary to the FCC’s belief that overregulation is a helpful undertaking, this is guaranteed to raise the cost of doing business and these costs will be passed on to consumers. ATR's Center for Fiscal Accountability has calculated that taxes and regulations already comprise 46.4% of cell phone bills.

Moreover, it is simply not the role of government to baby individuals who don’t know how to use their cell phones, tools already available to them, or read the contracts and plans that come with them.  Sadly, even frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville saw this nanny-state form of government coming in the U.S. over 150 years ago:

“For their happiness, such a government willingly labours…it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities…manages principal concerns, and directs their industry – what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?”

For the FCC, apparently just that.