$200,000 Mobile Phone Bill Underscores Need for Bill Shock Measures

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News Posted: Wed, Oct 19 2011 3:12 PM
Imagine the surprise on Celina Aarons' face when she tore open her cell phone bill and found out she owed $201,005.44. Unfortunately for the Florida woman, the bill was not a mistake, as one might be inclined to believe when discovering a phone bill saying you owe more for a month's worth of cellular service than you do on your remaining mortgage.

This is the sort of thing that's possible with roaming charges and international data fees, and if you're not careful, you can subject yourself to a severe case of bill shock. But before anyone rakes Ms. Aarons over the coals, understand two things. First, the system is flawed and bills like this should never happen. And second, it was her goodwill that got her in trouble.

You see, Ms. Aarons has five brothers and sisters, 7 News explains. Two of her brothers are deaf and can't talk, they can only make sounds. They were born that way. Figuring they have it rough enough as it is, Ms. Aarons got one of her brothers a cell phone and added him to her plan.

The trouble began when her brother spent two weeks in Canada. While vacationing, he didn't think to turn his data roaming off, so when he started firing off text messages and downloading videos, the charges began to rack up. There were several charges totaling more than $1,000 and $2,000 each, and when all was said and done, the final bill came to over $200,000.

Unfortunately for Aarons, the law isn't on her side and it's her responsibility to pay a monster bill that she can't afford, never mind that it's "like paying a nice house right now based on what houses are going for." Aarons' beef with T-Mobile over this bill is that they never contacted her about this bill, though they did text her brother on several occasions.

"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," Aarons says.

This is exactly the type of situation the FCC and CTIA are trying to thwart. While this is an extreme example, a study commissioned by the FTC in 2010 found that one out of every six Americans have experienced bill shock. To prevent these situations from happening, there's new regulation on the table that puts the onus on wireless carriers to keep customers informed when they're about to go past their data limits or be blindsided by international roaming charges.

In the meantime, Aarons has a big bill to deal with, though T-Mobile threw here a very big bone by reducing the charge all the way down to $2,500 and giving her six months to pay it off.
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"I can only think of just what types of videos her brother was downloading that could rack up such an amount? Hmm"

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Manduh replied on Wed, Oct 19 2011 3:51 PM

Holy frack!!! That's insane!!!! Thank goodness her bill was reduced to only $2500! I would have fainted seeing numbers like that on a bill!!! Another reason NOT to have a cell.

(This is one bill I'd actually like to see every page of though)

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george3k replied on Wed, Oct 19 2011 3:52 PM

If this was any other carrier--maybe, I could understand. But with Tmobile's family allowances feature for $5/monthly, anyone who has a family account or adds people to their account (so more than just you), this is almost a must! It isn't the responsibility of the carrier to monitor what you do or how you use it. It would be like expecting a car manufacturer to text you when your friend uses your car and ends up driving it across the country and puts all kinds of damage or wear on the car. Ultimately it's the account owners responsibility to monitor usage or take advantage of tools provided by the carrier to limit the usage. If your carrier doesn't have these tools, move to one that does. It's one of the reasons I haven't switched to a better carrier is that none of them provide family plans with this type of control. Ignorance is not an excuse.

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Aoshi replied on Wed, Oct 19 2011 3:56 PM

Yeaaaaaaah they should start calling the baseline and be like "hey uh you know your bill is getting really large right?"

hell even a text message would be nice.

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realneil replied on Wed, Oct 19 2011 4:31 PM

Bill Shock,....Yeah, I've been there and it isn't pretty. Cingular raked me for $8500.00 for my first month's bill ever, until they realized that I had never got my phone.

Here I was sitting at home, wondering where that phone was. I called about not getting it several times too.

Then I got that 'mother-of-all' bills. They had the phone shipped to the wrong address and the people who got it promptly started calling home to Guatamala, several times a day. (hey! Free Phone service and it calls ANYWHERE!)

It took me three months of total BS and stress to get that bill off of my record, and later that year I learned that they had reported that amount not paid to the three credit agencies. It took 4 months to correct that bit of BS.

Wireless phone companies and their "guaranteed income no matter what" contracts SUK.

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Inspector replied on Wed, Oct 19 2011 5:38 PM

WOW, texting my sister now... lol she goes to school right next to Canada and i wouldn't want anything to pop up this month... lol But thats nice of tmobile :)

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AKwyn replied on Wed, Oct 19 2011 6:38 PM

Bill Shock is a pretty nasty thing... I mean we'd think that texting is totally cool and cheap and affordable and downloading videos is also the same thing but once we cross over, we're totally reliant on roaming charged. I mean we get no notification that we're in international territory and therefore we are suspectable to roaming charged. I mean sure, we can research roaming charged but we should be made available of this information beforehand; so we can be aware of the decisions we have and the prices we'll pay if we call or make texts from overseas.

I mean I wouldn't want to be shocked and then have to deal with T-Mobile over a thousand dollar bill... And that's only because of the roaming charges, texting and downloading a video costs less in the states then it does overseas; and while roaming charges may be necessary, not reminding us about these charges is wrong and I severely hope the US does something about this, as stated in the article no one seemed to post in. http://hothardware.com/News/FCC-And-CTIA-Move-Closer-To-Bill-Shock-Prevention-Measures/ Companies like T-Mobile and AT&T should not be allowed to profit from this sort of thing.


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Ridiculous. Of course the reason they were able to be so gracious and reduce her bill to $2500 bucks is it probably cost them all of $100 dollars for all the texting and data that was used.

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Super Dave replied on Wed, Oct 19 2011 11:16 PM

Let T-Mobile take her to court! What jury of her peers wouldn't side with her? T-Mobile would come out of this looking like an 800 pound gorilla.

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while if think its an unfortunate event, stupidity is not an excuse. they should reduce the bill but I would still make it sting. 1000 would be a fine reduction in cost, its a sting but not a life ending sting. 

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KreepyK replied on Thu, Oct 20 2011 1:48 AM

Yes, stupidity is an excuse! The law should protect the stupid and the gullible before anyone else and not the son of b*tch rich who spen money on lawyers looking for loopholes to cover his stinking b*tt!

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gazd1 replied on Thu, Oct 20 2011 9:19 AM

I wonder if she explained to her brother the types of charges that he could expect her to get. She should of, if she didn't. I wonder should any one feel sorry for her. She should of known that something could happen like this, but off course not this bad though. Still $2,500.00 is enough to fork out for any bill that is private. She should think of herself as lucky & take the mobile phone off her brother for ever.

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