Monday, October 17, 2011
Help Me Howard: $201,000 cell phone bill
Your cell phone bill can sometimes surprise you. From 100 to 150 maybe two hundred a month. But how about a bill for $201,000? That's right- $201,000 for one month. Now the question. Does the phone company have to let your know your bill is going crazy? If you own a cellphone you might want to listen to Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Celina has five brothers and sisters. But two of her brothers are very special.
Celina Aarons: "They can't talk, they are mute deaf. No sounds, no nothing. They make sounds but they can't talk."
Both young men were born deaf. Shamir is the younger one, and Celina is especially close to him.
Celina Aarons: "And he's a sweetheart and he goes to college and I would do anything for him."
Since Shamir is in college and doesn't work, Celina got him a phone and put it on her plan. Then last month, she got their phone bill.
Celina Aarons: "Yes to 201,000 dollars, over 201,000 dollars. I asked three, four times and I'm like oh my God are you serious and she's like yes."
Yes. A monthly phone bill that is normally $175 was $201,005.44.
Celina Aarons: "I was freaking out. I was shaking, crying, I couldn't even talk that much on the phone. I was like my life is over!"
This is the $201,000 bill, running 43 pages. When Shamir saw it, he couldn't believe he had run it up.
Celina Aarons: "He spent two weeks in Canada. There is no way its that high. He was in shock. No way."
Shamir had been on vacation in Canada where he didn't turn his data roaming off. Texting over 2,000 times and using the phone to download videos. Bringing this charge for $1,800. This one for $1,300 this one for $2,500. On and on and on.
Celina Aarons signs to Shamir: "Did you leave it on when you go to see movies. On or off?"
Celina Aarons: "So apparently he used it for internet and I don't know how the charges got so high or whatever."
Since Shamir is on Celina's phone plan, the $201,000 bill is her responsibility. But she says paying that's impossible.
Celina Aarons: "Well it's never going to get paid cause therefore, I cant pay that. That's like paying a nice house right now based on what houses are going for."
She argues, the phone company should have told her the bill was blowing up.
Celina Aarons: "Wouldn't you let me know as the primary holder and they are saying no we respect your privacy. What privacy? That is my account."
Now she is faced with this- a phone bill very few people could pay in a lifetime, much less a month.
Celina Aarons: "Oh my God, my future is done, that's it. That all i can think about. My life is over. I can't do nothing, it's done."
Well Howard, data roaming charges can soar if you are out of the country. But legally does a company have to notify you your bill is breaking a record?
Howard Finkelstein: "No they do not. Their job is to provide a service and to bill you accurately. If you intentionally or in this case accidentally, run up a huge bill, legally you have to pay for it."
We then contacted T-mobile. Give them enormous credit, they were reasonable. They wrote that Shamir was billed $10 per megabyte. They say that rate was texted to him, and four additional texts were sent to his phone as the charges soared.
T-mobile then did what they legally didn't have to do. They lowered Celina's phone bill from $201,000 to $2,500 and even gave her six months to pay that bill.
Patrick Fraser: "Celina still has a big phone bill, and an even bigger story to tell people who all say the same thing when she tells them about her $201,000."
Celina Aarons: "You're joking right?"
It's no joke. But fortunately the bill is a whole lot lower.
Shamir signs: "Thank you sir."
You are welcome Shamir.
Patrick Fraser: "Phone companies tell you when you leave the country. turn that data roaming off. T-mobile says they warned Shamir, but I guess when you are sending and receiving 2,000 texts you can miss the warnings. And what happened to Shamir is not uncommon. In fact, the FCC has a name for it- it's called bill shock."
Billed a bundle and ready to hang it up? Don't roam around. Call us. We are wired in and our data is free, no matter what country you are in.
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