Author Topic: $6k cell phone bill  (Read 6292 times)

Katnina

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$6k cell phone bill
« on: July 14, 2013, 04:43:30 PM »

KingCoin

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Re: $6k cell phone bill
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2013, 05:11:21 PM »
In fairness, this was more the result of an unethical billing policy by their cell phone provider than a considered act of antimustachianism.

Katnina

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Re: $6k cell phone bill
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2013, 05:15:03 PM »
Apparently they got multiple text warnings about the charges and ignored them, then disabled the roaming cap...

KingCoin

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Re: $6k cell phone bill
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2013, 05:37:36 PM »
"When I heard about it, I felt physically sick. Casey was very upset and embarrassed and I was in tears."

I think we can reasonable infer that this 14 year old had no idea she was racking up a $6,000 bill and that she was just ignoring random service-provider text messages as 14 year olds will do.

Given the magnitude of the bill, the service provider owed them a personal call to confirm that they are, in fact, billionaires who were cool with paying thousands of dollars to update their Facebook.

Jamesqf

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Re: $6k cell phone bill
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2013, 06:16:23 PM »
In fairness, this was more the result of an unethical billing policy by their cell phone provider than a considered act of antimustachianism.

What exactly is unethical about the billing policy?  The company says it charges $x for international/roaming data.  If you don't want to pay $x, don't use it.  Life isn't going to end if you don't update your Facebook page for a few days.

Note that we're also not talking about po' folks here, if they can afford to fly mom & kid off to NYC for a 5 day vacation.

Cecil

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Re: $6k cell phone bill
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2013, 10:55:25 PM »
The real question is why on earth is it 3 orders of magnitude more expensive to use data in a different country.

KingCoin

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Re: $6k cell phone bill
« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2013, 09:02:20 AM »
In fairness, this was more the result of an unethical billing policy by their cell phone provider than a considered act of antimustachianism.

What exactly is unethical about the billing policy?  The company says it charges $x for international/roaming data.  If you don't want to pay $x, don't use it.  Life isn't going to end if you don't update your Facebook page for a few days.

Note that we're also not talking about po' folks here, if they can afford to fly mom & kid off to NYC for a 5 day vacation.

It's unethical because almost no reasonable person would be willing to pay $6,000 for the service rendered. It's predatory. The service provider is taking advantage of the customer's lack of understanding of the contract. This is not a good faith transaction. It's especially egregious when the end user is a 14 year old (yes, yes, parents should police their children's cell phone use, blah blah). The fact that the policy was delineated somewhere in the contract may make it legal, but it doesn't make it ethical. Again, the cell phone provider should have at least gotten verbal or written confirmation that the consumer understood the charges they will ringing up, just like a credit card provider might call you to confirm that you just bought three tv's and a Vespa (funny how companies start caring as soon as it's their money on the line).

Imagine that you learn that somewhere in your 30 page gym contract it says that you owe $100,000 to the gym if you decide to cancel. This would be a predatory, unethical policy given that almost not person would knowingly agree to it. Yes, caveat emptor, you should have read the contract, but it doesn't make it ethical.

ketchup

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Re: $6k cell phone bill
« Reply #7 on: July 15, 2013, 09:23:12 AM »
I had something similar happen to a friend of mine in high school (2007ish).  Except it was $700 (no data plan, and being billed something ridiculous like $1.99/MB).  She figured out "hey, my [not smartphone] phone can go on Facebook!  Nifty!"  I could definitely see a smartphone today being able to rack up a bill ten times that in data use.

lisahi

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Re: $6k cell phone bill
« Reply #8 on: July 15, 2013, 09:23:32 AM »
In the United States, major terms of a contract between a large company and an individual need to be explicitely and unambiguously stated such that the end user would have to have stuck her head in the sand in order for the terms to apply. This is because (1) a large company has more power; (2) the large company wrote the contract; and (3) the individual generally has no negotiating power with regard to the contract. It's the contract's writer that bears the burden of proof as to whether the terms were explicit enough.

Now, contract law differs from country to country, but the UK probably has similar case law on the subject.

Here, giving warning texts may not be enough. The original term of the contract was buried in small print (as all cell phone contracts are), and texting a cell phone is, in my view, an insufficient means to give notice of such a substantial term of service. We live in a digital world, but that doesn't mean significant contract terms and resulting penalties can be explained sufficiently in a small text. The phone should have been called by the provider when the data cap was reached, asking for authorization to remove the cap after explaining the consequences of doing so. That would have been explicit notification.

Gen Y Finance Journey

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Re: $6k cell phone bill
« Reply #9 on: July 15, 2013, 09:41:46 AM »
I don't know if I can feel too bad for the family. Sure, a 14 year old might not understand how roaming charges can add up, but the parents certainly should have made some arrangement for their phones before traveling internationally. And if not, at least have a conversation with their teenage daughter about roaming charges so she'd know not to use so much data. Are there really adults out there who aren't aware that roaming charges are obscenely expensive? (No, I don't think the phone companies are justified in charging so much for roaming, but it's the reality right now, and a reality that I assumed was common knowledge.)

lisahi

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Re: $6k cell phone bill
« Reply #10 on: July 15, 2013, 09:57:58 AM »
I don't know if I can feel too bad for the family. Sure, a 14 year old might not understand how roaming charges can add up, but the parents certainly should have made some arrangement for their phones before traveling internationally. And if not, at least have a conversation with their teenage daughter about roaming charges so she'd know not to use so much data. Are there really adults out there who aren't aware that roaming charges are obscenely expensive? (No, I don't think the phone companies are justified in charging so much for roaming, but it's the reality right now, and a reality that I assumed was common knowledge.)

It depends how much you travel whether it's a known problem. I don't know how often this family travels, whether they've had issues with roaming charges before, or whether they've ever heard of roaming packages for cell phones. Not everybody leaves their home country. And I'm not sure what kind of cell packages there are in Europe, but perhaps some plans include non-roaming coverage in multiple countries.

Jamesqf

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Re: $6k cell phone bill
« Reply #11 on: July 15, 2013, 11:22:29 AM »
It depends how much you travel whether it's a known problem.

Not really.  It just depends on reading/watching the news, because stories like this are not exactly uncommon.

It's also another good reason to use prepaid cell phones, since you can't get stuck with any charges that you don't explicitly authorize.

Albert

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Re: $6k cell phone bill
« Reply #12 on: July 15, 2013, 12:14:11 PM »
Perhaps you are not aware of it, but roaming and data charges were recently heavily regulated by EU. Still more expensive than in the home country, but not obscenely so. So if the family had previously only traveled within EU they might not have been informed about it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union_roaming_regulations


russianswinga

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Re: $6k cell phone bill
« Reply #13 on: July 18, 2013, 01:29:23 PM »
I'm on Verizon in the US, and roaming for Voice in my home country (Russia) is $4.99 a minute. Same for At&t

Luckily my Verizon iPhone 5 is unlocked and I buy a local sim card for $10 when I travel there.
Before you jump on me for owning such a luxury gadget, the phone + line are paid for by the company I work for.

GuitarStv

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Re: $6k cell phone bill
« Reply #14 on: July 18, 2013, 03:52:46 PM »
Why does a 14 year old have a cell phone?

I don't have a cellphone . . .

AlmostIndependent

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Re: $6k cell phone bill
« Reply #15 on: July 18, 2013, 04:41:38 PM »
Not that it justifies the rates they were charged but this is what you get when you give a 14-year-old a smartphone.

NumberJohnny5

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Re: $6k cell phone bill
« Reply #16 on: July 18, 2013, 04:46:19 PM »
Our 4yr old has a tablet, which can double as a phone. Our 7yr old (6yrs at the time) had a phone, but just for the camera function (of course, that quickly changed to games, games, and more games).

I think the data charges should be lower. Regardless, I'm not going to argue about that (too much). If there's any government regulation, I think it should focus on having some kind of cap. End-user gets pre-approved for a certain credit limit, and they have every single right to have a LOWER limit put in place. If the user reaches that limit, BOOM, affected services are disabled.

So, in this scenario, I'd envision the parents initially having a $10,000 credit limit on their mobile plans. They see that they're approved for this $10,000, freak out, and have it immediately lowered to $1,000. Even in an emergency, $1,000 should be way more than enough, right? Then they get messages at 50%, 75%, and 90% usage. If somehow they ignore the fact that they owe $500, $750, and now $900, then services will be shut-off. If they are in fact ok with such a huge bill, they could call in and have the limit upped again.

And delayed billing...too bad. It needs to be near instantaneous, and if the user hits their $1,000 limit and the provider later gets notification that there's an additional $10,000 in charges...you snooze, you lose. I don't like the whole "ok, we can shut off service if it goes past $X,XXX, but we may not know about all the charges you've accrued, so you may in fact get a bill for $XX,XXX." No, it's a hard limit.

And there's quite a few pre-postpaid mobile plans, at least in Australia. So it's possible that someone would think they're getting a prepaid plan, but in fact it's treated as post-paid (in that you can go way negative in balance, and be liable for those charges).

For now, I just do (true) prepaid, and don't worry about excess charges. If one of my kids got hold of my phone and called China, the worst that'd happen is I lose about $10 or so of credit. No five-digit mobile bills in our future.

Erica/NWEdible

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Re: $6k cell phone bill
« Reply #17 on: July 18, 2013, 04:47:20 PM »
In fairness, this was more the result of an unethical billing policy by their cell phone provider than a considered act of antimustachianism.

What exactly is unethical about the billing policy?  The company says it charges $x for international/roaming data.  If you don't want to pay $x, don't use it.  Life isn't going to end if you don't update your Facebook page for a few days.

Note that we're also not talking about po' folks here, if they can afford to fly mom & kid off to NYC for a 5 day vacation.

It's unethical because almost no reasonable person would be willing to pay $6,000 for the service rendered. It's predatory. The service provider is taking advantage of the customer's lack of understanding of the contract. This is not a good faith transaction. It's especially egregious when the end user is a 14 year old /snip/

Um....what about this part from the cell phone company:

“We know our customers want to use their smartphones while on holiday without the worry of a big bill at the end. That’s why we offer a number of services, such as roaming bundles, which allow travelers to use data overseas and control the cost. All Orange customers have a number of protections in place — customers are even automatically opted-in to a roaming data cap, which limits their charges to £49 ($74) for a set amount of data. Customers receive warning texts to alert them of their data usage and we have an app that helps them monitor data usage, and opt in to a data bundle if needed. The customer received numerous text alerts, which updated them on the roaming costs for the USA, and also updated them on their data usage. Once they had reached the limit of their data bundle, the customer actively opted out of our roaming data cap so that they could continue to use data, effectively removing the inbuilt protection from large data roaming bills.”

NumberJohnny5

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Re: $6k cell phone bill
« Reply #18 on: July 18, 2013, 05:39:18 PM »
Um....what about this part from the cell phone company:

“We know our customers want to use their smartphones while on holiday without the worry of a big bill at the end. That’s why we offer a number of services, such as roaming bundles, which allow travelers to use data overseas and control the cost. All Orange customers have a number of protections in place — customers are even automatically opted-in to a roaming data cap, which limits their charges to £49 ($74) for a set amount of data. Customers receive warning texts to alert them of their data usage and we have an app that helps them monitor data usage, and opt in to a data bundle if needed. The customer received numerous text alerts, which updated them on the roaming costs for the USA, and also updated them on their data usage. Once they had reached the limit of their data bundle, the customer actively opted out of our roaming data cap so that they could continue to use data, effectively removing the inbuilt protection from large data roaming bills.”

If that's true, then I guess they're liable for it. In my ideal scenario, you'd still have a hard limit that you'd have to call in to raise (to help prevent just such a scenario). I'm curious how easy it was to opt-out of the cap; was it along the lines of "Call us, confirm your identity, and we'll remove the cap" or "Yo, reply to this txt saying "Opt out!" if you wanna keep facebookin'. Peace!"