Mythbusters' Adam Savage Discovers Insane Roaming Fees: $11,000 iPhone Bill For A Few Hours Surfing

from the BUSTED dept

Every few months or so there's an article somewhere about an insane phone bill that someone gets because they took their phone out of the country without recognizing the insanity that is international roaming rates. This time, it appears to be Mythbusters co-host Adam Savage, who's been doing a bit of traveling lately. He was recently up in Canada, and used his iPhone to do a little web surfing. And now he got the bill. Apparently AT&T wants somewhere around $11,000 for Adam's surfing and have turned off his phone until he pays. Now there will be some who say that he should have read the fine print, but considering just how often these sorts of stories pop up, at some point it's worth noting that the fine print isn't working. And... even if you grant the "fine print" premise, it's hard for anyone to figure out how these international roaming rates make any sense whatsoever. They're so far off the charts as to be unbelievable.

Anyway... next week on Mythbusters... the insanity of mobile phone bills? Can we see Jamie and Adam try to decipher hidden fees, while Grant, Tory and Kari search for the elusive accurate mobile phone coverage map? Maybe Buster can figure out what the real limits are on unlimited data plans? Hmm... maybe not.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Michel Billard, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 1:21pm

    How to use explosives to replicate the myth

    I wonder how they'll be able to justify the use of explosives for this myth.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    PRMan, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 1:23pm

    Solution

    The only solution, of course, is to blow up the phone.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Shawn (profile), Jun 26th, 2009 @ 1:24pm

    newer tweets

    # Sorry, bit of explanation: device in question wasn't my phone, it was the AT&T usb connect Mercury modem.half a minute ago from web
    #
    And I got the "data is charged at .015 cents, or a penny and a half, per kb". About to try to explain the difference to them. Sigh.6 minutes ago from web
    #
    They're claiming I uploaded/downloaded 9 million kilobytes (9 gigs) while in Canada. Frakking impossible.7 minutes ago from web

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Yakko Warner, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 1:55pm

      Re:

      And I got the "data is charged at .015 cents, or a penny and a half, per kb". About to try to explain the difference to them. Sigh.
      So, can Verizon sue AT&T for their use of Verizon Math?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Robb Topolski (profile), Jun 26th, 2009 @ 1:26pm

    I love his twitter history...

    (in reverse order)

    1. And I got the "data is charged at .015 cents, or a penny and a half, per kb". About to try to explain the difference to them. Sigh. 3 minutes ago from web

    2. They're claiming I uploaded/downloaded 9 million kilobytes (9 gigs) while in Canada. Frakking impossible. 5 minutes ago from web

    3. @sleepingbri you read it right. $11,000.00 about 1 hour ago from web in reply to sleepingbri

    4. Did I mention they've turned off my phone until I pay? #attsucks about 1 hour ago from web

    5. Almost forgot: Hey AT&T! I will fight this bullshit. about 1 hour ago from web

    6. Text messaging fees are stupid robbery? (they are), AT&T is attempting to charge me 11k for a few hours of web surfing in Canada. Pls RT! about 1 hour ago from web

    7. @virgiliocorrado I believe the RIAA to be a bunch of venal idiots. I don't think much of the MPAA either for that matter. 2:23 PM Jun 24th from TwitterFon

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    PC, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 1:26pm

    Wow

    And that's why, I use a prepaid cellphone.



    Oh, and I am a PC too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Knox Bronson, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 6:04pm

      Re: Wow

      That's great. try going out of your calling area with your prepaid and see what happens. They nailed me for $65 for a local call, with no warning.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 8:58pm

        Re: Re: Wow

        That's great. try going out of your calling area with your prepaid and see what happens. They nailed me for $65 for a local call, with no warning.

        Your prepaid phone sucks. That wouldn't happen to me on my prepaid AT&T phone. I have no contract with them, I bought the phone and service with cash and my name is nowhere attached to it or the service.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        Derek Kerton (profile), Jun 27th, 2009 @ 11:14am

        Re: Re: Wow

        um. yeah, but there is an upper limit on prepaid phones...it's the amount you prepaid...which I'm willing to guess is less than $11k.

        I have no love for prepaid, but I use it in the EU when I travel to limit the roaming bill damage.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        Azrael (profile), Jun 27th, 2009 @ 2:06pm

        Re: Re: Wow

        Then buy a phone with a 2-SIM support and get a full coverage with 2 networks.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 1:28pm

    I guess AT&T is about as good as verizon in understanding dollars and cents:

    http://consumerist.com/220874/verizon-still-cant-count

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 1:30pm

    $11,000.... I can't believe it's not ruled illegal in some form or another. Generally industries have some kind of consumer protections. You would think that it would be illegal to essentially charge a person as much as it would cost to buy a cheap new car, simply for utilizing a service. Yes, terms maybe written in the fine print, but the expectation that something could have unlimited, disproportionate penalties is not usually permitted to this extreme.

    I wonder how the contract could actually hold up if it were taken to court. Anyway, if I were him, I would walk into an AT&T store, on camera for the show, and rip them a new one. Then toss the iphone at the guy behind the counter and whip out an Android phone and record his reaction.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Hockeydad, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 3:46pm

      Re: Throw the phone at him

      Yeah, throwing the phone at some young kid working behind the counter at the AT&T store... that'll teach AT&T! NOT. Why not throw the phone at the AT&T CEO or maybe Steve Jobs since Apple only allows AT&T to sell them.

      I really hate people who get mad at the "kid behind the counter" when they have issues with a company/product.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 3:50pm

      Re:

      Because obviously the guy getting paid minimum wage in the AT&T store controls the billing policies...

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Chris V, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 1:30pm

    As a canadian who travels internationally frequently, I am "happy" that Telus now charges ONLY $8/MB for data roaming south of the 49th. Oh, and only $8/MB when you take a domestic west coast ferry that crosses into US waters for 15 mins on every trip.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 1:34pm

      Re:

      Oh, and how do you like it that they charge you canadian roaming rates when you've never left the US, but the signal got picked up by the canadian tower?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Robb Topolski (profile), Jun 26th, 2009 @ 1:31pm

    Oh, yeah... and they cut him off (why this is probably good)

    On the matter of "Did I mention they've turned off my phone until I pay?" ... one of the things we've criticized is that wireless companies let the bills mount up and then send a huge bill at the end of the month.

    Apparently they're not doing that any more. I know Adam's angry right now, but keeping an $11,000 bill from becoming a $100,000 bill is probably a Good Thing(tm). Still, it doesn't solve the root matter of why these charges are so insanely high in the first place.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 1:53pm

      Re: Oh, yeah... and they cut him off (why this is probably good)

      Then why not stop the charges at $1100 instead of $11000?

      A real customer-oriented company would allow the customer to set the cutoff limit when setting up the account.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        Derek Kerton (profile), Jun 27th, 2009 @ 11:17am

        Re: Re: Oh, yeah... and they cut him off (why this is probably good)

        Any amount of customer service would send an SMS warning at 150% of the normal bill, and a phone call/email at 200%.

        "Hey, did you know you just ran up a $400 charge? Did you intend to do that? OK, thanks."

        Not so tough to do.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          Derek Kerton (profile), Jul 1st, 2009 @ 4:22pm

          Re: Re: Re: Oh, yeah... and they cut him off (why this is probably good)

          They just did the things I suggest in Europe, see
          http://www.wirelessweek.com/article.aspx?id=170544

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          Derek Kerton (profile), Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 10:34am

          Re: Re: Re: Oh, yeah... and they cut him off (why this is probably good)

          Just got this from Picasa, the Google web service. It's great - a warning, a call to action, an offer for upsell. Is it really so hard:

          80% of storage quota exceeded on Picasa Web Albums

          Hi Picasa Web Albums User,

          This is a quick note from your friends on the Picasa team -- we thought you should know you've used over 80% of your free storage (1GB) on Picasa Web Albums.

          Think you need a few more virtual shoeboxes to store and share all your photos? You can easily upgrade your storage now. Additional storage is shared across Gmail and Picasa Web Albums, and can help you create an online backup of your entire photo library.

          See you on Picasa Web Albums!
          Best Regards,
          The Picasa Team

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    The Buzz Saw (profile), Jun 26th, 2009 @ 1:32pm

    No Love

    The issue isn't just the mountain of fine print backing any product these days. The problem we have today is that businesses are no longer concerned with their customers. Many credit card providers have the decency to call the owner of a card if a strange purchase is made (and even cancel/reverse the purchase). Heaven forbid that AT&T call Adam, verify his identity, and notify him that he is coming up on the first few hundred dollars of charges.

    This leads me to my other concern: it is waaaay too easy to spend money over cellphones. On my first cellphone, I went ringtone shopping. I thought I was in the "free" sections (I NEVER once selected a "purchase" button/link), but I had $60 charges on my bill next month from 3rd-party vendors. There needs to be some consumer-protection in this area because too many vendors outright LIE about stuff being free and whatnot.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 9:07pm

      Re: No Love

      The issue isn't just the mountain of fine print backing any product these days. The problem we have today is that businesses are no longer concerned with their customers.

      It depends on what market you're talking about, but that certainly seems to be the case with the phone industry. On land lines the local carrier usually has a complete monopoly. With wireless there still isn't anywhere near enough competition due to gov't restrictions. I think stories like this kind of prove that.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        Derek Kerton (profile), Jun 27th, 2009 @ 11:21am

        Re: Re: No Love

        I always try to clarify this: You say there isn't enough competition, and that's partly right.

        The US has the MOST effective mobile phone competition in the entire world *where it applies to minutes of voice use*. We pay less per minute, have larger "buckets", than the rest of the world.

        The US has basically very limited competition for any ancillary service on mobile phones: roaming, ringtones, data traffic, LBS services, etc.

        The reason is that people tend to shop for a mobile phone by comparing "anytime minutes", and estimating their monthly spend. Because of this, this is the only place carriers aggressively compete.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Japan Guy, Jun 27th, 2009 @ 1:09pm

          Re: Re: Re: No Love

          Guess you have no clue what we pay in Japan :)
          It's way way way lower than anything in USA.
          Our text plans are almost free, and phone charge is peanuts.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            icon
            Derek Kerton (profile), Jun 27th, 2009 @ 7:06pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: No Love

            Um... I have a very good clue. How often have you worked for NTT DoCoMo? Me, it's just the once, but I figure that probably affords me some credibility.

            In Japan, the average price per minute of voice is in the 20 cent US range. In the US it is sub 7 cents. Here's some data to show that I have a clue: http://www.gsmap.org/wp-content/uploads/files/price%20per%20minute%20trends037165.pdf

            http://find articles.com/p/articles/mi_m0DUJ/is_11_104/ai_n27561778/

            Sorry the data is old, but the arguments are still valid. If this has changed drastically in the last year, let me know. But in the US, people just use more voice minutes in their plans, lowering averge cost per min:

            http://mobileanalystwatch.blogspot.com/2006/01/telephia-cell-phone-usage-highest_18.html

            http://blogs.dialogic.com/2008/08/why-the-danes-text-while-the-us-talks.html



            "Our text plans are almost free".

            Re-read my post. I said that the US carriers compete viciously on voice minutes, and pretty much nothing else.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              identicon
              Travis, Jun 27th, 2009 @ 8:08pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: No Love

              One small problem with your reasoning about the voice cost in Japan, incoming is free. That throws the numbers fr a serious loop when you add that to the equation. I lived in Japan for 4 years, average bill was $35/month. That was with free surfing, a high number of free texts, and a reasonable amount of minutes.

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              •  
                identicon
                Anonymous Coward, Jun 29th, 2009 @ 2:24pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: No Love

                One small problem with your reasoning about the voice cost in Japan, incoming is free.

                Interesting how he left that bit out, isn't it?

                 

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                •  
                  icon
                  Derek Kerton (profile), Jun 30th, 2009 @ 9:54am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: No Love

                  "Interesting how he left that bit out, isn't it?"

                  Irrelevant.

                  The calculations as done by the research firm Wireless Intelligence, and in my first link just above, work as follows: take the average total cost of voice service in a month, and then divide it by the average total number of minutes that the phone was in use in a month. This results in cost per minute.

                  You guys accusing me of subterfuge didn't even consider the research. It wasn't done on a "What's the market price of a minute" basis, where free incoming was excluded. It was done on a Total cost/Total minutes basis.

                  Interesting how you both misunderstood the math, isn't it?

                  What is interesting about "incoming free" or Calling Party Pays (CPP) is the net effect on Minutes of Use (MoU). In most of the world, where CPP is the service model, MoUs are much lower. This is because EVERY call a wireless customer initiates incurs a real cost to them. And EVERY time a landline calls a phone, there is a cost of some ~25 cents per minute. The net effect is much less calling. This is one of the main reasons the US has more MoUs, and why our cost per minute is lower.

                   

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Freedom, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 1:32pm

    We need a law...

    This is so darn frustrating and I hear this on almost a weekly basis from our clients - they get back from an international trip and then get "THE BILL" from AT&T for the iPhone.

    While I'm not a "we need a law" type person, we really do need one in this case as Cell Phone Companies just don't get it. They can tell me where I am within 30 feet but they can't figure out a solution so folks don't end up with huge data bills when traveling? They can't figure out that the average cell phone user would expect that if their phone has charges that exceed their typically yearly fees that something MIGHT BE WRONG - REALLY?

    You want to put something in fine print, put this, "If your billable usage is more than three times your normal monthly bill we will temporarily disconnect any non emergency services until we can verify/authorize with you that these services/charges are being made knowingly by you and are correct." Add in an opt-out feature and you are set.

    Freedom

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      hegemon13, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 1:57pm

      Re: We need a law...

      "They can't figure out that the average cell phone user would expect that if their phone has charges that exceed their typically yearly fees that something MIGHT BE WRONG - REALLY?"

      Or fees that exceed several months' salary...

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 9:12pm

      Re: We need a law...

      This is so darn frustrating and I hear this on almost a weekly basis from our clients - they get back from an international trip and then get "THE BILL" from AT&T for the iPhone.

      They should have read that contract before they signed it.

      While I'm not a "we need a law" type person, we really do need one in this case as Cell Phone Companies just don't get it.

      We do have laws. Laws that say you are obligated to fulfill the terms of your contract. Phone companies understand that just fine.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Luci, Jun 27th, 2009 @ 5:54am

        Re: Re: We need a law...

        Yes, because everyone is going to sit down with a lawyer to understand the 12 pages of legalese that is being shoved in their faces. These contracts are written in such a manner that a layperson really cannot understand them.

        As to laws saying you're obligated blah blah blah? Laws aren't currently regulating these enormous charges as they should. There is no consumer protection in place, and there should be. Let's also not forget the tale of two agents. One will say that your rate is 0.015 cents per kb. The next will tell you that it's 1.5 cents ($0.015), and yet neither is what's being charged. In this case it looks more along the lines of $1.50.

        Seriously, if you're going to be an ass about things, put your name on it. Man up.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          The Man, Jun 27th, 2009 @ 11:36am

          Re: Re: Re: We need a law...

          Yes, because everyone is going to sit down with a lawyer to understand the 12 pages of legalese that is being shoved in their faces. These contracts are written in such a manner that a layperson really cannot understand them.

          That's what lawyers are for. If you don't exercise due diligence (such as obtaining legal advice) before entering into a contract, then you deserve what you get. No one is forcing you to sign that contract (or if they are, then you can probably get a court to declare it invalid).

          As to laws saying you're obligated blah blah blah...

          Don't like the law? Tough. Write your congressman.

          Seriously, if you're going to be an ass about things, put your name on it. Man up.

          There, I put my "name" on it, "Luci". Happy now? (And are you hiding some testicles under that skirt of yours?)

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Steve, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 1:33pm

    AT&T's about to get it's shit owned HARD. When it's an average Joe, it can be swept under the rug after a little bad publicity. With a media personality, you're going to get slammed VERY hard, VERY publicly, VERY often until the matter is resolved in a reasonable fashion. I may be putting too much stock in Adam's fame, but I think AT&T's about to enter into a much larger world of shit over charges like this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      TheStupidOne, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 2:10pm

      Re:

      I agree ... Savage might not be a big star but he is very well known in 'geek' circles and they control the internet. Anything gets enough attention online and it'll go mainstream

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Derek Kerton (profile), Jun 27th, 2009 @ 11:24am

      Re:

      And let's be fair...it's not just AT&T. Every carrier worldwide does International roaming price gouging.

      In the EU, the EU telecom regulator started passing laws last year to put an end to it, and limiting roaming fees to a set premium over domestic fees. But we don't like regulations in the US. Good for us.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2009 @ 11:44am

        Re: Re:

        But we don't like regulations in the US. Good for us.

        Good for "us", as long as "us" is the wireless telecom industry (of which you are a member), right?

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          Derek Kerton (profile), Jun 27th, 2009 @ 6:32pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Well, yes I am deep in the telecom industry. But I was being sarcastic with the "good for us". Why do you ask? Did I sound like a shill when I wrote: "Every carrier worldwide does International roaming price gouging"?

          You're unlikely to find somebody who consults for telecom firms who also disagrees with them as frequently as I do. I lose gigs fairly frequently when people are trying to hire a "yes" man. But my job is to offer them good advice that supports long-term business. Fortunately, the minority of clients out there looking for honest/critical advice is enough to keep me busy.

          I don't advise businesses to gouge their customers. The net result is you bill a few people $11k, they fight it. You argue back and forth, the bill gets lowered. Everyone is wasting time, the customer tells everyone they know how much they hate their thieving carrier. That's not good. Next, nobody takes their phones or data cards abroad. People go without communications to avoid the gouging, and the carriers go without the usage.

          I would say the upper limit (and this isn't necessarily the right price, but the *limit* of reason) should be that a wireless service costs double abroad than it would cost for a domestic user in that country. That way, you could pay both carriers involved (the host, and your carrier) the market rate. Anything more is obscene.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            icon
            Derek Kerton (profile), Jul 1st, 2009 @ 4:25pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Here's an example of decent regulation. The Eurpean customers are getting screwed much less than us on Roaming, as of recently:

            http://www.wirelessweek.com/article.aspx?id=170544

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            Ilhan Bagoren, Sep 1st, 2009 @ 5:08am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I just had a worse problem than Adam:

            I live in Istanbul and Connecticut, US. I use 2 SIM cards for each country - T-Mobile for US, Turkcell for Turkey.

            Last time I went from US to Turkey, before I had a chance to change the SIMs, my son watched a few movies on YouTube, in a week. Yesterday, I received a bill, for $25.000! Also notification that my line as well as 4 others in the package are suspended, until I pay the bill.

            My monthly spending is around $100. So, I wonder why they waited so long (8 days) to decide enough is enough.

            I called them, and asked why they did not stop the second day, while it is at $3000. They say they only have 50 people, they cannot keep an eye on everybody - what a BS.

            They say I should deal with the operator in Turkey, they cannot do anything.

            When I call the operator in Turkey (happens to be Turkcell), they say operators should not let this happen, i.e., when their customers have growing roaming charges, they shut of when it goes twice the regular bill.

            It is difficult to deal with this from Turkey. Any suggestions to which consumer agency or lawyer to call?

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 26th, 2009 @ 1:34pm

    Silly Masnick

    "at some point it's worth noting that the fine print isn't working."

    Not working for whom, exactly? When they pull these charge stunts, what is the % of cases in which they get paid? Seems to me that if the % is anything over 15%, the fine print is working for AT&T just fine...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Gracey, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 1:35pm

    Canadians traveling in the US get hit with those roaming fees too. Sort of ridiculous. We asked about services before we traveled, and our provider (rogers) told us about the fees in advance. So, we communicated through our laptop wireless via text chat and voice chat when necessary, and left our phones off except when we needed to make a call.

    It sucks, but it would suck more having to pay that $11,000 bill.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    another mike (profile), Jun 26th, 2009 @ 1:37pm

    am i missing an eyebrow?

    Adam needs to reject their reality and substitute his own.

    At least that appears to be what AT&T is doing with that .015 cents == a penny and a half. Is this that self-actualization math that was so popular with the schools about a decade ago? They actually tried that at our school. Two plus two could equal five if you felt good about the answer. Two plus two equals five only for very large values of two!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 26th, 2009 @ 1:41pm

      Re: am i missing an eyebrow?

      "data is charged at .015 cents, or a penny and a half, per kb"

      Well, to be fair, they were only 100x off. I'd like to use that math when paying my AT&T bill, however.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 9:22pm

        Re: Re: am i missing an eyebrow?

        Well, to be fair, they were only 100x off. I'd like to use that math when paying my AT&T bill, however.

        I tried that one time just to see what would happen. I filled the check out for the usual amount, but then changed the part that said "dollars" to "cents" and changed the dollar sign to a cent sign. It went through and my bank paid it as if though it were "dollars" anyway. Nobody seemed to pay any attention to the denomination.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Pjerky (profile), Jun 26th, 2009 @ 1:39pm

    Abusive telcos suck

    This is what I hate about big companies that have limited competition. They get to abuse their positions and then when a problem comes up they lobby some politician to allow them to do whatever they want. In this case it would be hard to pass a law for something that occurs in more than one country I think, even though they live in one country.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    taysolo, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 1:40pm

    Assuming some base line math.

    Assuming
    3G (3-th Generation) speed ~ 300-450 kbps (37.5-56.25) kBps

    We are looking roughly ~60 hours nonstop at full bandwidth to score this kind of sweet bill. On an IPhone that is laughable, I have one and there is no way! The 3G network isn't that good to begin with...

    LOL

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 1:42pm

    This is where exclusivity really hurts the customer. ATT are suh assholes about this stuff. I took my iphone out of the country AND I paid for an international plan to cover my use. ATT billed for the international plan which more than covered all of my use AND they billed me for the roaming seperately. I had to speak with 3 different people to get the billing straight. So, even if you read the fine print and jump through all of the right hoops ATT will still try to get over on you. I so wish I could take my iphone to antoher carrier.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Brooks (profile), Jun 26th, 2009 @ 1:48pm

    Reverse lottery?

    AT&T could actually make a lot of money by amending their fine print to create reverse lotteries. Something like:

    Unlimited* Data plan: $70/mo

    * Not valid for data connections from latitudes and longitudes that add up to prime numbers when decimal point is disregarded, which are billed at 0.015 cents

    ...nobody's going to figure that stuff out, and it's not going to hit most users much, if at all. But across a large enough population, there's some extra revenue to be had there.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    minijedimaster (profile), Jun 26th, 2009 @ 1:49pm

    As a side note, (I'm not defending AT&T because those charges are ridiculous) If you go to Settings-->General-->Network on your iPhone you'll see an option called "Data Roaming" which is off by default (at least on mine it was) which the sub caption underneath says "Turn Data roaming off when abroad to avoid substantial roaming charges when using email, web browsing and other data services"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Richard Barbazette, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 5:15pm

      Re: Data Roaming On or Off:

      When I bought my phone the helpful clerk (trained by T-Mobile) set it up with the data roaming switch "on", as I now learn. I wonder if her commission reflects my $3400 bill for 7 days in London?

      If your not technically oriented you shouldn't be taken advantage of. How easy would it be for T-Mobile to stop service when charges exceed 200% of average, until confirmation is made that the user understands what's happening?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 1:49pm

    When you cross a border into another country, you should treat your phone like it costs $10 a minute to do anything.

    I have SIM cards for Vegas area, Hong Kong, and China - never would I actually use my local sim card in a remote location, unless I really, really want a huge bill.

    Maybe he can bust that myth.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 2:43pm

      One little problem...

      ...you don't really have to BE in that country. If you're by the border (but not across), your signal is picked up by the other country's tower, and you get charged roaming rate!!!

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    3G user, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 2:03pm

    data roaming

    If I am correct, he would have had to turn ON data roaming on his 3G. I believe is is off by default. By doing this he would have assumed responsibility.
    Now I am in no way a fan of cell phone providers ... they all can sodomize themselves including my own carrier located here in BC Canada.
    Though he will have to pay, the amount they are asking may not be a breach of the consumer protection policy.

    "Consumer protection laws are designed to ensure fair competition and the free flow of truthful information in the marketplace. The laws are designed to prevent businesses that engage in fraud or specified unfair practices from gaining an advantage over competitors and may provide additional protection for the weak and unable to take care of themselves. Consumer Protection laws are a form of government regulation which protects the interests of consumers. For example, a government may require businesses to disclose detailed information about products—particularly in areas where safety or public health is an issue, such as food. Consumer protection is linked to the idea of "consumer rights" (that consumers have various rights as consumers), and to the formation of consumer organizations which help consumers make better choices in the marketplace.
    Consumer interests can also be protected by promoting competition in the markets which directly and indirectly serve consumers, consistent with economic efficiency, but this topic is treated in Competition law.
    Consumer protection can also be asserted via non-government organizations and individuals as consumer activism."

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

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Fiercedeity (profile), Jun 26th, 2009 @ 2:20pm

      Re: data roaming

      "Though he will have to pay, the amount they are asking may not be a breach of the consumer protection policy."

      Well it should be a breach of something considering that the amount of bandwidth they are accusing him of using is impossible on their network (assuming Adam is correct in how long he was data roaming).

      Either way you look at this, data roaming or not, AT&T is at fault here.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Sailingmaster (profile), Jun 26th, 2009 @ 2:07pm

    If you've seen Adam Savage's Obsession video...

    You know from the Q&A portion that there are a myriad of subjects that Discovery simply won't let them do. Don't think for a moment that Discovery wouldn't shut this topic down in a heartbeat in order to protect advertisers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 9:28pm

      Re: If you've seen Adam Savage's Obsession video...

      You know from the Q&A portion that there are a myriad of subjects that Discovery simply won't let them do. Don't think for a moment that Discovery wouldn't shut this topic down in a heartbeat in order to protect advertisers.

      I wouldn't be surprised if Discovery paid it themselves just to sweep it under the rug.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 2:36pm

    Did everyone miss the part where TWO people posted tweets that said it wasn't his iphone?

    So thank you very much for all the sage advice on how to turn off data on the iphone when out of country, and figuring out the data throughput of the iphone, but it's not applicable here.

    Might help to read at least a couple of the comments before posting.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    alternatives(), Jun 26th, 2009 @ 2:56pm

    Perhaps Adam should talk with Herb.

    Herb Kohl

    *_Rising Text Message Prices_* **

    With more than 270 million subscribers, cell phones are a vital means of
    communications for the
    vast majority of Americans. The enormous growth in the use of cell
    phones means that maintaining competition in this industry is more
    important than ever.

    Cell phones enable instantaneous communications for millions wherever they
    are located, whether at work, at home, away
    from home, in their car, or anywhere in between. Many Americans ~V over
    20% -- have now discarded traditional land line phones and depend
    entirely on cell phones. The ease, convenience, and universal nature
    of today~Rs cell phone service would have been unimaginable just two
    decades ago.

    For many years as this industry developed, it was a
    competition success story ~V with many rivals and vigorous price
    competition. In recent years, however, the picture has changed.
    Consolidation has left this industry highly concentrated. Four
    national carriers now control over 90% of the cell phone market. AT?
    and Verizon combine to have a market share of 60%. Consumers~R choices
    have become quite limited, and price wars seem to be a thing of the
    past. American consumers pay more for wireless phone service than most
    other developed nations ~V an average of $506 per year in 2007.

    Nowhere is the changed market for cell phones more noticeable than in
    text message service. These short, instant messages delivered via cell
    phones have become enormously popular. In 2008, more than one trillion
    text messages were sent, more than triple the number just two years
    before. As their popularity has grown, so has the price charged on a
    per message basis.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Azrael (profile), Jun 27th, 2009 @ 2:29pm

      Re: Perhaps Adam should talk with Herb.

      With more than 270 million subscribers...

      How the fuck is this possible? The great USA - the country of happiness and wealth - has less subscribers per capita than my country ? Here in Romania we have 24 mullion subscribers for a population of less that 21 million .
      Maybe USA is what it's all cracked-up to be. Looks like it's more of a third-world shithole.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jun 29th, 2009 @ 8:45am

        Re: Re: Perhaps Adam should talk with Herb.

        No national health insurance = third world country
        Fewer cell phone subscriptions than people = third world country
        Expensive infrastructure for a very large (land-wise) country = third world

        Last I checked, none of the above really qualify you as a third world country. I think way too many people on the internet completely forget about what actually makes a third world country.

        Oh yeah, and I don't give two shits about your Romanian cell phone subscriber ratio.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 3:03pm

    YAY!!!! they messed with a tv star

    i predict doom for at&t
    and if that happend hopefuly fear gets to most of the overcharging company`s

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 3:43pm

    it wasn't his iphone if you read his more recent tweets....it was his wireless modem

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 9:31pm

      Re:

      it wasn't his iphone if you read his more recent tweets....it was his wireless modem

      So even though it wasn't his phone, they still turned off his phone. Sweet!

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ (profile), Jun 27th, 2009 @ 12:14am

    Adam would do well to write a strongly worded letter addressed to

    Ralph de la vega.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Sean, Jun 27th, 2009 @ 1:03am

    Sean

    It's interesting how they seem to be able to know when you are roaming, and know when to charge you, but they can't send you a text notifying you that you are entering a roaming zone and your rates will skyrocket if you begin calling and surfing. They can determine how to bill you, but won't contact you to tell you the be careful.

    Awful.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Pat Phelan, Jun 27th, 2009 @ 3:15am

    there is a solution

    There is a solution for Adam's issue
    he could have gotten a MAXroam
    the carriers will never play ball, roaming fees are above 30% of their net profits
    Your readers can get a special discount at maxroam.com if they want to save money on their roaming fees
    during the purchase use the discount code "tweet"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 27th, 2009 @ 7:17am

    Perhaps it is time to form an international regulatory body to address the insanity called "roaming rates"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    TheTripper (profile), Jun 27th, 2009 @ 7:36am

    The math simply does not work

    It's called "Deregulation". Congress did it to the airlines and to AT&T; we can see how well *that* has worked. The airlines are competing, but it's become a crapshoot as to which one will be in business by the time you use your ticket and AT&T is fast becoming Ma Bell again.

    And again, the math for their charges still doesn't work. An SMS message is literally 140 bytes long, costs about 25 cents to send at .10 cent per byte (that's one-tenth of a cent). As a contrast, a CDROM costs about .0000000003 cents per byte. That's 3 BILLIONTH's of a cent per byte on a CDROM. It cost's them NOTHING to transmit that SMS message as it's inserted into a blank space 140 bytes long in the transmission packet, built in for error checking that isn't used anymore.

    The argument about not reading your contract or you should know better doesn't work when it is painfully obvious to someone who can do basic math that the profit margin on data transmission is hundreds of thousands times greater than the costs. And if my math is off by a decimal place or two, it's still obscenely greater than anything the banking or oil industry's do.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Sean, Jun 27th, 2009 @ 7:50am

    Sean

    It's interesting how they seem to be able to know when you are roaming, and know when to charge you, but they can't send you a text notifying you that you are entering a roaming zone and your rates will skyrocket if you begin calling and surfing. They can determine how to bill you, but won't contact you to tell you the be careful.

    Awful.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    The Cenobyte, Jun 27th, 2009 @ 11:04am

    Fine print shouldn't ever count

    We need a law that says that contracts for personal services under $300 a month on average should not have any fine print. Charges and fees listed to the customer need to be in one number that can clearly understand. If the contract requires changing fees (Like roaming charges) those charges must be issued in a clear chart that could be read and understood by an average 8th grader. (Yeah I know 8th grader is a little broad and could mean a lot of things, It's intentional. Let those guys work toward a fuzzy line for awhile).

    Also, contracts that allow the company to change fees or charges are not contracts. If the fees change the customer has the right to sue for breach of contract and terminate the contract. If the contract states they can change the fees, than it's month to month and there can be no early term fees.

    Really, it's because this country loves to protect businesses that this kind of thing is allowed. Can you imagine if you treated a friend or your family like this? Businesses should be held to the same ethical standards we would expect from anyone else. It's sad that we even need a law like this but they are allowed to use fine print as a loop hole for unethical behavior all the time, which just shows that sometimes you have to regulate people to keep them honest.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    femtobeam, Jun 27th, 2009 @ 2:18pm

    AT&T Ripoffs

    It is about time that someone with Media attention was ripped off by AT&T, exposing the illegal activities of their legal team at Wiley Rein. Wiley Rein are also responsible for the farce of e-security, then refuse to comply with government regulations claiming privacy issues. I am a victim of AT&T who charged me for a phone I never used, while I was somewhere else and deducted various phone bill amounts directly from my account for years. I have never been able to solve it. Verizon, whose main shareholder is a partner with Wiley Rein and is the so-called husband of former NTIA director, Nancy Victory has a similar method of extortion from the public. Roaming fees are a farce. The limits on bandwidth are created to raise prices. They are not inherent in the systems themselves. Further, Wiley Rein and John Sie of Starz/Encore are now heavily engaged in a porno network with Sirius. How did they get the money for their system? Was it high cable bills from TCI or stolen BCCI money?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    UhNonAMuss, Jun 27th, 2009 @ 5:32pm

    People still use cell phones?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Michael, Jun 27th, 2009 @ 9:34pm

    Moron in a hurry test

    What is really needed is a 'moron in a hurry' law for anything worth less than the poverty-line per year.

    Anything -OVER- that should require a HUGE statement saying exactly that it is not protected by that.

    The moron in a hurry test is roughly thus: If there is a moron who is just barely able to remember the details they need to sign up for the contract, like all my contact info is on a scrap of paper in my pocket, then they must still be able to accurately predict what their billing would be from any action proposed to them in relation to their contract in -laymans terms-. IE, You take a vacation to canada and your wife's mom calls you and complains at you for 3 hours, what is that on your bill when you get home?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    lens42 (profile), Jun 27th, 2009 @ 11:24pm

    Nobody is asking "Why do they do this?"

    Why do they do this? Wouldn't it be better to come up up with a rate that is painful enough, but not outrageous? Then people wouldn't live in terror of using their phones out of the country, AT&T would get more business, and MAKE MORE MONEY!

    AT&T has to kill these plans where you have to to think in advance, based on info you don't have, to pick the best rate. How about AUTOMATICALLY switching you to the best bulk rate when you cross each data threshold. The frugal people will still watch their Mbytes and not tax the system, and those that need data will know they will pay more, but not get ripped off. This would increase roaming revenue. Come on tellco's, get a brain!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    MythBusted, Jun 28th, 2009 @ 12:50am

    It was NOT an IPHONE!

    from his twitter:
    ------
    Sorry, bit of explanation: device in question wasn't my phone, it was the AT&T usb connect Mercury modem.
    ------


    downloading 9 gigs of data during a trip in canada? not impossible...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Chris, Jun 28th, 2009 @ 8:44am

    Total Scam

    You know, it wouldn't take anything for AT&T or any of these other providers ripping people off like this to re-direct your browsing to a warning page at say the $500 mark letting you know how much you are spending and then give you the option to continue and suppress all future warnings during this session, warm me again at the $1000 mark, etc.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Peter, Jun 28th, 2009 @ 9:51am

    Data usage

    If you are away, that means you don't use your plan in the U.S.
    But you still pay for it. Can a AT&T apply part of the domestic bandwidth you don't use to the foreign one?

    How about T-Mobil? They should have very good overseas roaming plans sinse they own their network there.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Lachlan Hunt (profile), Jun 28th, 2009 @ 4:09pm

    Telco's Responsibility

    The telcos should should take some responsibility upon themselves to notify the user that their usage is attracting excessive fees, based on some more reasonable limit. So if a user suddenly gets a bill of around $100 in a relatively short period, the telco should immediately attempt to notify the user, at least by sending a simple SMS.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    James, Jun 28th, 2009 @ 5:37pm

    A very great story by Philip Ling of Canwest News Service in Canada. Looks like he got an interview with Adam Savage, too. Look at this reaction!

    Check it out:
    http://canada.com/news/MythBuster+uses+Twitter+fight+phone+bill/1740546/story.html

    MythBust er uses Twitter to fight $11,000 phone bill
    By Philip Ling, Canwest News Service

    “Any notion that social media can’t effect real change has just been dispelled by a man who makes a living shedding light on half-truths.

    Adam Savage, the co-host of the popular TV show MythBusters, has solved the problem of the unfathomable $11,000 cellphone bill he got while travelling Canada.

    This time, instead of using science to find the truth, Savage turned to his Twitter account…”

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Ted, Jun 28th, 2009 @ 8:42pm

    Nobody checked the math?!

    2 things:

    1) $0.015 * 9,000,000 = $135,000.00

    2) AT&T isn't interested in treating him fairly. After he's been outraged enough and run through enough bureaucracy, they'll offer to retroactively sell him 3 months of international roaming program (1 month for the month he used it, plus 2 months for those between then and the time that they get around to offering to reinstate his phone if he pays their fees.) It's a bit of a scam.

    3) (I lied ;) What's to keep him from just buying another phone? (Use a different credit-card/of course. Perhaps a relative's name...)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 29th, 2009 @ 2:31pm

      Re: Nobody checked the math?!

      What's to keep him from just buying another phone? (Use a different credit-card/of course. Perhaps a relative's name...)

      Umm, law enforcement? Stealing someone's identity (even a relative's) to commit fraud is a federal crime, you know. Maybe Adam just isn't quite ready for federal prison and I can't really blame him for that.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    John85851 (profile), Jun 29th, 2009 @ 12:36pm

    They can tell me where I am within 30 feet but they can't figure out a solution so folks don't end up with huge data bills when traveling?

    Um, why should they? Of course they know where you are and when to start the roaming charges. But by the time you realize you're 30 feet within the roaming area, you've probably already racked up hundreds of dollars in profit for them.

    So why stop this kind of cash cow with some kind of warning system for consumers? Sure, some people will dispute the charges, but the vast majority will simply pay it, so their brand-new hi-tech toy doesn't turn into an expensive paperweight.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Angel, Aug 6th, 2009 @ 1:29pm

    Wtf

    Where has the world gone to? Massive spending and it's just so insane how they can go and charge that much! I mean seriously? I wouldn't pay that 11k if I were you (; AT&T sucks.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    lisa, Aug 28th, 2009 @ 3:30pm

    it ain't no myth

    I need to know what was discovered and how to stop it as my family is going through this right now!! We are being charged 3600.00 by bell mobility and 400.00 per phone to cancel the contract (4 phones)!! Good ole Ma Bell she ain't happy until everyoneelse aint't happy - believe me we are all in tears now Ma!!

    Can anyone offer some good advice on how to fight this!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Richard Barbazette, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 5:02pm

    T-Mobile bill for $3400 for 7 days in London

    These data roaming charges are a scam. In the U.S. the charge is about $1/day. In London, $200-250/day.

    The E.U. has capped these charges. Are our U.S. politicians in the phone companies pockets? You wonder why ordinary people are pissed at big business?

    Contact me if you want details. I plan to sue in Small Claims Court and see if the system has any equity left in it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    wow, Nov 8th, 2009 @ 7:33pm

    Idiots

    If you knew anything, before traveling abroad you would add an international package so you do not get hit with these fees. and to those who said sales reps make minimum wage, the sales reps at verizon and at&t make between 50 and 60 thousand a year. cheers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    tammy, Nov 3rd, 2011 @ 9:01am

    Verizon Scam

    LOL, we went to the Bahamas for a week. My husband and I have droids, he has an X i have a vortex. from Sept 6, 1022 4pm -Sept 8, 2011 8:25am of just leaving our phones on, no calls or texting we had a $2000.00 bill. We shut the phones off...BUT... we found out talking to managers at verizon stores and the verizon company, that they will still download unless you remove the battery!!! They don't tell you that when you get the phones. You also cannot remove the apps that come with the phone. I don't use facebook, or youtube on my phone, and I did a force close so as not to download, but... it still tries to uspdate, using up my kb's. And... if we shut the roaming off on our phones, it doesn't matter, you still get charged the international rate for downloading.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This