A family from British Columbia got the shock of their lives upon returning from a Mexico vacation – a bill from their cell phone provider for $22,000 (U.S. $21,385.50) in roaming charges.
Matt Buie was on vacation with his family in Mexico in January, when his son got a bad sunburn and decided to spend a few days indoors.
Buie, having put his phone on airplane mode, handed it over to his son so he could play video games and amuse himself.
He would later find out, to his dismay, that his son took the phone off airplane mode and streamed approximately 12 hours of YouTube videos, or 700 megabytes of data.
Buie told the CBC in an exclusive interview:
I made a mistake here — as his father — and he made a mistake. He turned off the airplane mode and was watching YouTube videos. I should have taken the SIM card out… or not let him use the phone. That’s guilt that I have to live with. I clearly should have known better.
Sorry, you shouldn't be forgiven excess roaming charges for being a terrible parent.
— Daniel Bader (@journeydan) March 4, 2013
Still, the B.C. father was outraged that 700mb of data could cost as much as a new car. He called Fido and demanded to know why they didn’t contact him sooner as the charges added up.
At this point I am wondering, how did this happen? I was on airplane mode. We got no messages, other than when you shut my phone down after the fact.
Fido representatives quickly agreed to lower the bill to $2,200, but Buie was still not satisfied.
It is gouging. It is $20 in Mexico [for domestic customers] to get the same amount of data [700 mb] from their carrier and it is $40 to get the same amount of data while in Canada.
Buie said he’d be willing to pay $200 – the amount at which other Canadian telecoms cut off service for roaming charges. After some discussion, Fido eventually relented and offered a new bill for $500.
have no sympathy for this story about someone's kid racking up thousands of dollars of roaming charges on his phone.
— Manisha (@manishaclaire) March 4, 2013
Instead, Buie said he is taking his complaint – and massive bill – to the company’s ombudsman and wants his contract cancelled without penalty.
Unlike the U.S., where there are multiple telecom companies to choose from, Canadians suffer under a veritable monopoly, with just three major firms dominating the market.
This means higher prices, less competition and fewer options for consumers.
— Alistair Croll (@acroll) March 4, 2013