The $19,370 ATT Phone Bill

You really got to be careful when using cellphones or wireless data plans internationally, otherwise you’ll end up racking up $19,370 on your AT&T AirCard like this American kid did in Canada. It would be nice if they made some kind of warning system that said hey, you’re spending several hundred times what you normally do, are you sure you want to continue, but then again, it would also be nice if a cupcake appeared on my desk right now.

Family Racks Up $19,370 Cell Phone Bill [WFTV] (Thanks to everyone who sent this in!)

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  1. keith4298 says:

    If it was a bank card, they would have claimed fraud and shut it off within minutes. They know that profit margin is high enough, so they let it slide.

  2. Adisharr says:

    It’s no surprise that [insert big corp. here] doesn’t give a shit about their problem. They just want to know when the bill will be paid.

    • blackmage439 says:

      @Adisharr: Agreed on the “big corp just wants to get paid.”

      My mom LOVES online bill-pay. After years of paying bills, she’s noticed one static trend. Companies she deals with have absolutely no problem sending her the bill. Knowing how to mail a check seems to be a foreign concept at times to the USPS.

  3. katylostherart says:

    and they’re treating the matter seriously according to the article!

  4. notme93 says:

    Wouldn’t it make sense that AT&T doesn’t cover certain areas, espically foreign countries?

    I agree that they should have some sort of automated call when your bill gets too high, but some of the blame also rests on the consumer for not properly researching the product before its use.

    • Fly Girl says:

      @notme93: The family says that they called before the son went and were told that the card would work up there but were not told that it would cost them international usage fees, especially not tens-of-thousands of dollars in fees.

      “The Terry family said they asked an AT&T employee about the service before their son left the country. They said they were told nothing about international fees.”

      I think part of the problem/confusion/misunderstanding is that the family is in Portland, OR and the son is in Vancouver, BC. While that’s *technically* international, we’re talking the distance between San Francisco and Los Angeles here.

      I think that the other part of the problem, and I know this from experience, is that the customer service people have no freakin’ clue how the international phone service works or how much it’s going to cost. (I, too, learned that the hard way… At least mine was a $200 lesson, not a $20,000 lesson.)

      Even if AT&T only charges a certain amount to use the service internationally, the local service provider that you’re accessing might be tacking on fees too, fees that AT&T can’t avoid paying/charging and that the user isn’t informed of. (Similar to the cruise ship cell phone signal racket…) I’d have to wonder if something like that led to this obscene bill.

      Regardless, I hope this is resolved in the family’s favor and that AT&T puts something in place to avoid a situation like this in the future– if banks and credit card companies can do it, so can AT&T.

      • Parting says:

        @Fly Girl: But it IS international. There a lot less distance between counties in Europe, and it still means roaming on a different network. Different companies = roaming.

        • Fly Girl says:

          @Victo: No, no. I know that Canada and the States are two different countries and that there are European countries that are *even closer* than Portland and Vancouver. But, like someone else mentioned above, there is NOT a separate country code for calling Canada. Their phone numbers are formatted just the same as ours. That alone is awfully misleading– you can be making international calls and not even realize it.

          I think it’s also suspicious that the “international” calls/data usage would be SO MUCH MORE than using his data card in Blaine, WA. (The border town.) I mean, really. Is he even really using different infrastructure or a different satellite? We’re talking the geographic distance of a few miles– Vancouver isn’t deep in Canada. Doesn’t AT&T/Cingular SERVE Canada, too?… I get the feeling that they’re charging the international roaming fees ’cause they can, not because there’s actually some drastic price differential.

          That being said, I always call my cell phone provider before traveling abroad to find out if my phone will work in my destination and, if so, how much it will cost me.

          Last year I was spending some time in Mexico City. After getting transferred multiple times (because it seems NO ONE knows anything about international calling at the customer service center), I was told that the international roaming would be $.99 per minute on top of the standard rates. Fine. Reasonable.

          I used my cell phone only a few times on that trip, and only for a few minutes each time. I expected an extra $20, maybe $40, on my bill. When it came, it had an extra $200 in fees. WTF?!

          Turns out I was using another network to make my calls and that network was charging me on TOP of what my carrier was charging me. That was never disclosed to me and I never knew that was even a possibility until the bill came. Luckily, it was a small enough amount that I paid it and wrote it off as a lesson learned.

          So, there’s the possibility that something like that is what’s making the phone bill so high– he could be paying roaming for AT&T and be paying access fees for the Canadian carrier that was providing him with the service. If that’s the case, he’s going to have a hard time getting AT&T to reverse the charges because I’m pretty sure they have no authority to waive them…

          I hope this family gets this sorted out– a $200 lesson is reasonable but a $20,000 is NOT. And for everyone else, it’s best to just leave the cell phones behind when you’re traveling… Get a local phone, use payphones, whatever. Just don’t use an American cell anywhere but the States unless you’re ready for a nasty surprise.

          • @Fly Girl:

            I mean, really. Is he even really using different infrastructure or a different satellite? We’re talking the geographic distance of a few miles– Vancouver isn’t deep in Canada. Doesn’t AT&T/Cingular SERVE Canada, too?… I get the feeling that they’re charging the international roaming fees ’cause they can, not because there’s actually some drastic price differential.

            AT&T does not have service in Canada. If you take your AT&T phone up into Canada, it roams on Rogers and your calls are routed through Rogers’ facilities. Rogers sends AT&T the bill. The roaming fees are pretty plainly stated on their website. I know when I bought my iPhone the documents with it were very clear that international data roaming would apply, and in AT&T’s own words the charges would be “substantial.”

            I live in the US with an AT&T phone, but for the last six months I’ve been traveling to Vancouver 4 days a week on business. Strangely enough, if I should place a roaming call, when my AT&T bill comes half the time the place where it said I was roaming was not anywhere near where I was. Presumably Rogers routed the call through no man’s land.

            I’ve had calls I’ve made in Vancouver come back on my bill saying I was roaming in Nunavut of all places. I’ve always wondered if I could get them taken off, seeing as how I have the boarding passes and hotel bills to show I was thousands of miles away at the time, but I did make the calls so I’ll pay for them.

            • Fly Girl says:

              @Employees Must Wash Hands: Wow, it sucks for the OP and his family if AT&T doesn’t serve Canada… If the bill is coming from the Canadian service provider (like I said at the bottom of my comment), then it’s going to be *really* hard to get the charges taken off, at least on AT&T’s end, because (like you said) the Canadian company is the one charging the money, AT&T is just trying to collect it.

          • Parting says:

            @Fly Girl: Nope, At&T does not serve Canada. Nor Cingular. We have Rogers, Fido as GSM networks. And Bell and Telus, as CDMA.

            So you ARE roaming on different company network.

            It’s the same as long distance calling. When you are in another country (ex. Brazil), local companies decide your rate, since you are not one of their regular customers. So they charge ”tourists” more, since they can bring only occasional profit.

            And as far as I know, Rogers (uses same technology as AT&T), charges 30$/Megabyte for occasional AirCard usage. Add At&T international charges, and you get an 20K bill.

          • Parting says:

            @Fly Girl: ”there is NOT a separate country code for calling Canada” is a pretty poor excuse… However, 20K is pretty brutal. If they are good long-term customers, AT&T should have wrote off part of debt, and offered payment plan for the rest.

            Though it opens door for all those ”I didn’t know it costed that much!” cases…

            • Fly Girl says:

              @Victo: No, what I meant is that someone could give you a phone number to dial and if you didn’t KNOW that phone number was a Canadian phone number, you would be unwittingly be making an international call. It just seems kinda tricky to me. If it’s an international number, and going to incur international charges, it should have a separate country code.

              • Parting says:

                @Fly Girl: Long distance to Canada isn’t much more expensive than regular USA’s inbound long distance.

                Roaming, while in a different country is very, very difference.

                (I don’t believe that the consumer didn’t notice that he crossed the border. Plus, local cellphone companies are at marketing war, so you cannot miss all billboards advertising different cellphone/aircards services, and not ask yourself, why you aren’t seeing any At&T.)

                • Mira Mi Huevo!!! says:

                  @Victo:
                  “I don’t believe that the consumer didn’t notice that he crossed the border”

                  The border is not a “magic” wall that separates cellphone coverage, you can actually go severals miles into mexico without going into roaming with Sprint’s service.

                  • Parting says:

                    @chumia40: Nope, not the case here. (Even if you’re right, if the signal is stronger, you can end up roaming without crossing to another country).

                    The guy was in Vancouver, which is definitely out of reach of AT&T antennas. This is a case of lack of responsibility from consumer. And trying to put all the blame on the company. (If you’re not mature enough to call and ask ”How much it’s gonna cost?”, that’s your problem).

                    It’s same as 900 numbers. ”I didn’t know the sex/astrology line was THAT expensive!” is not a valid excuse.

                    @BrianDaBrain: Maybe the problem here, is that the family has different lines on same account. I’ve heard, from a customer service rep, that multiple lines/services on same account make limits ”flags” impossible, due to non-existent software. And tryout versions of such software wreaked havoc, due to several bugs…

              • RandomMutterings says:

                @Fly Girl:

                Ever wonder what the + button on cell phones is for? It’s the international access code (like 011 in the USA, or 00 in Europe) that you can prepend to dialed numbers in a cell phone to tell the network — give me this country code.

                The question of Canadian area codes (NPAs) that are within the same international “1” (North American) country code is a good one. And there is an easy fix — carriers could modify their dial plan to require the country code to be dialed for calls to Canada from the USA with the international prefix like this:

                Dial 10 digits from USA –> Call is always “local” to USA.
                (example: 650-555-1212 (Bay area CA) == local

                Dial 10/11 digits from USA to Canadian area code –> Call not completed

                (example 416-555-1212 (Toronto) “You must include the international access code to complete this call”)

                (example 1-416-555-1212 (Toronto) “You must include the international access code to complete this call”)

                Use + international code for Canada calls –> international call completed
                example +1 416-555-1212 –> call completed (international rate)
                example 011 1 416 555 1212 –> call completed (international rate)

                • Fly Girl says:

                  @RandomMutterings: THANK YOU!!! Finally someone who got what I was saying.

                  I wasn’t arguing that the OP somehow thought Canada was the same country as the US or that he didn’t “realize” he’d left the States. Rather, I was saying that it would be easy, as a consumer, to not realize that we’re not all on the same big phone grid, since our phone numbers are set up the exact same way.

                  I was also pointing out that if you are in the US and given a Canadian phone number, you’d have NO WAY of knowing you were about to make an international call until your bill came. That’s misleading and shouldn’t be legal.

  5. mrdeeno says:

    $19k is excessive, but sorry, I gotta side with the phone company on this one.

    Just because I wasn’t told that eating too much McD’s would make me fat doesn’t automatically mean it won’t. Just because I wasn’t told that leaving my TV on day and night would increase my electricity bill doesn’t automatically mean it won’t. Just because they weren’t “told” that international use wasn’t included didn’t automatically mean it was included.

    Further, why is it up to the phone company to look out for “excessive use”? First of all, the charges aren’t computed until the billing cycle. Second, I would be damn annoyed if a company kept track of my usage and alerted me to anytime they thought something “excessive” was happening…this has happened a lot of times with my credit cards while I traveled for work, and it was a major inconvenience when the company shuts down your credit line thinking that my card was stolen and sent to Brazil or China.

    Whatever happened to personal responsibility and actually THINKING for once and watching yourselves instead of complaining that no one has your back? There has probably been THOUSANDS of people who have traveled abroad with their cell phones, and they were all bright enough to either know to ASK for an international plan and/or monitor their usage. The policies and rules and laws created to protect the LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR in society from themselves is already out of hand, and I don’t need another policy from a phone company babysitting me.

  6. HPCommando says:

    Given the news of the past week, I’m beginning to see a very bad pattern, enhanced by my own ATT experience.

    Moons ago, I got a special deal to tie “Blackberry Tethering” to my personal account; this gave me my internet access and allowed me to tether my phone to use as a modem on my laptop (never went over 20Mb on it per month).

    Suddenly, last month, the tethering was disabled.

    Now, ATT denies I ever had the “Blackberry tethering”. I can now only get tethering, now limited to 5Gb, if I am willing to pay $60/month for it. Without tethering, I’m allowed unlimited internet access for $50/month.

    Getting the paperwork, getting the documents, more on this later.

  7. snoop-blog says:

    oh great Ben, now I want a cupcake…

    • @Ben Popkin & snoop-blog:

      Sorry…couldn’t resist.

      As for the rideculously large bill issue, I sympathize but that’s it. International charges are industry standard, and while the reps they spoke to definatly should have informed them about the charges, technically they already agreed to them with the billing plan/contract. The best bet I can think of is to pleade your case (remember the concept of honey vs. viniger) to somebody who has the authority to decide. Maybe a pleading-style EECB, but you’d have to find one warm-hearted executive.

  8. coan_net says:

    “The Terry family said they asked an AT&T employee about the service before their son left the country. They said they were told nothing about international fees.”

    Did the family ask if it would work in Canada…. or did they ask if it would cost more out of the country? I would guess the family just asked if it would work. I don’t know about others, but I hate when people start to answer questions that I don’t ask. So unless the family asked about if it would cost more – then it is not the stores fault.

    “When AT&T saw the numbers getting over $1,000, I would think it’s their responsibility to inform us that something was amiss…”

    Nope, your responsibility for the charges that you rack up.

    It sucks for the family, but when they signed up for service, I’m sure they got papers which told them that extra changes for international use and such would be added…. just because the family ignored that information does not make it AT&T’s fault. (Hopefully AT&T will cut some $$ off the bill – but in the end, the family is at fault.)

  9. Parting says:

    HELLO!! Canada is a different country! Duh! There will be roaming!

  10. ram0029 says:

    It said he used the service 21 times but got a 200 page bill? Uhhh… something isn’t adding up. I am guessing since he was using an AirCard on a laptop he left it connected to the internet for hours and hours on end.. the 21 uses counts as connections… but why a 200 page bill?

    Something fishy…

    I used a cell phone all over Europe last summer for over 21 hours total in a 2 week period, my bill was 3 extra pages and a hair under over $1000 (what I expected, actually a bit less). 20,000? uh… something definately fishy with one side or the other of this story…

  11. Baron Von Crogs says:

    I had a bill with AT&T that was about $1500.

    What happend was the following…

    My debit card was lost, so my autopay was broken (good thing lol) I also miskenly changed my account online and removed free internet for a lower package.

    Yadda yadda, I lapse two months on my bill and realize I had over $1000 past due. My heart sank when I saw my bill online. So, after a few weeks of talking to AT&T phone reps I got them to remove the chages and I only had to pay for the two months (plus the month I was currently on) to restore service.

    The funny part was when I told them I’d be cheaper for me to cancel my service and pay an ETF. They said “We would still put you in collections” I told them I didn’t care, I would ignore that and I would never.ever pay this unreasonable bill – since it clearly didnt COST THEM that much to let me use the net.

  12. Ein2015 says:

    Oh my… “An AT&T representative said they’re treating the matter seriously and looking into it.” (According to the article linked.)

    Ben, why didn’t you point out this CRITICAL fact? :)

    I’ve heard of phone bills like this before for various reasons. If ever a cellphone company adopted Google’s “do no evil” model, I would switch in a heartbeat.

  13. hallam says:

    It is very simple. The FCC should require wireless providers allow their customers to set a maximum monthly usage for their plans and a maximum premium they will pay for roaming charges.

    There is no reason AT&T could not make this happen, NONE. And I speak as someone who works in the industry. They will whine and moan about the cost of doing this but that is utter bullshit.

    What they are really worried about is that if customers can cap their roaming charges the whole corrupt scheme of charging $5/minute for service that would be $0.10/minute would fall apart and they would stop making money this way.

    Alternatively, they don’t have to implement the caps, but they cannot collect if a customer goes over.

  14. British Benzene says:

    Am I the only one who read the source as “WTFTV”?

    Might be because I picked “Service,” “Hockey Mom,” and “Drill” as my drinking words last night.

  15. bsalamon says:

    shouldn’t this also be tagged with ‘taking it seriously’
    ?

  16. snowlock says:

    though i’m not certain how it works, i am sure there is a way this can be prevented.
    besides service providers cutting out ridiculous “overage charges” and such, that is.
    =)

    there is, last i checked, a thing called a “spending limit.”
    you can set up an amount with the service provider,
    and once you’ve reached that limit extra services will no longer work.

    here again, i feel it is the fault of the company and not the consumer.
    this sort of service should be widely applied,
    and would be if only the company informed its customers.

    then, of course, they’d lose out on some huge overage money.

  17. Sockatume says:

    When I go abroad with my mobile phone, I get a text message informing me of my new locale and current roaming rates. There should be a system in place to let data-card users get the same info, perhaps by email or to a suitable mobile phone number. That way you’re fairly warned in advance.

    Really, I’m waiting for some company to decide it’s going to cut its margins and really compete on roaming. If, say, T-Mobile decided its roaming rates were going to be 1.5x its home rates, regardless of location, travellers would flock to their service. As it happened, I couldn’t afford to use my T-Mobile phone in the US, so I grabbed a cheap Virgin handset here instead, and they lost my business for 3 months.

  18. tedyc03 says:

    An AT&T representative said they’re treating the matter seriously and looking into it.

    Why didnt’t this make the “we’re taking it seriously” series?

    Who, seriously, who doesn’t know that cell phones shouldn’t be used internationally? Are there still people on earth that don’t know that? Seriously?

    I’m not usually an OP-blame person, but I’ll stick my neck out and say that whatever they get from AT&T should be graciously accepted. They screwed up – NOT AT&T

    • Consumerist-Moderator-Roz says:

      @tedyc03: *Constructive* comments towards the victim are okay. “Seriously, who doesn’t know that” type comments are asinine – they’re neither interested to read nor helpful to the consumer.

  19. goodywitch says:

    I didn’t RTFA, but I’ll comment like a nincompoop anyway. When I had a cell in a foreign country, and I left the area, I automatically became an ATT customer. (I returned to the US w/ the phone, and I still had minutes on the phone, but I had a text telling me what was happening.) If ATT’s partner’s are so kind as to explain rates and the new system, I’m confused why ATT can’t do the same?

    Periodic checking of the bill is a good thing (lesson learned, thanks consumerist).

  20. freelunch says:

    I agree that it is outrageous that the cell phone companies do not allow you to cap the costs related to roaming…

    it is also annoying that I can call a regular 10-digit number from my cell phone and think it will be within my plan… only to be charged a “toll” fee for calling a Canadian number – shouldn’t this be a different country code? – that I did not expect to see.

    It is a problem that no honest/ethical phone company will be able to reasonably compete with the current power players due to the amount of money the other plays collect from roaming and ‘out of plan’ minutes, data, etc…

    as long as we are wishing for fair treatment on things – I wish we could block incoming calls when international… I do not want to deal with the roaming charges for when my grandmother calls me while I am working in Germany when I wasn’t the one that initiated the call – yet I still see a charge for the voicemail she leaves when I don’t answer.

    • Parting says:

      @freelunch: As macdave2 wrote, roaming charges are always delayed, due to fact that it’s provided by different companies/billing departments. It would demand a complete synchronization between counties, which is not very realistic…

  21. XTC46 says:

    Im fairly certain most air card software has the option of not connecting while roaming, just like most smart cards allow you to not sync your device in roaming areas as to prevent extremely large bills. Im guessing the kid disabled this becasue he wanted the internets!

  22. awh_tokyo says:

    All of the major cel phone carriers here in Japan automatically cut off your account (whether you are roaming or not) once your bill gets over 40,000 yen ($400) or so. You then have to call them up to confirm that you really meant for that to happen, and agree that you’ll pay off the bill even if it’s higher than expected.

  23. macdave2 says:

    As for capping your roaming spending at a preset limit, the different companies do not send the usage to the home company instantly, it is delayed by as much as a couple of days. That is probably why there is no current way to cap your roaming usage.

  24. sonneillon says:

    Well at $19,000 I would stiff AT&T draw out the lawsuit and then go bankrupt, throw credit cards and other bills in the mix while they are at it.

  25. Lucky225 says:

    That has nothing on this $50,654.34 phone bill from centurytel ;)

    [www.phonelosers.org]

  26. Dyscord says:

    This reminds me of the huge bill someone ran up because they went out of the country and the iphone kept phoning home without him knowing.

    Also reminds me of those stupid AT@T commericials when they say “So and so won’t get your call because they don’t have AT@T and don’t get service.” Nevermind that there is almost ALWAYS some other way of getting in touch with people..

  27. Also, the kid in the article should be really happy things weren’t reversed and he was a Canadian roaming into the US.

    Data roaming with an AT&T phone on Rogers in Canada costs about 1.95 cents per kilobyte (we’re talking almost two pennies, if you remember the Verizon decimal point confusion from a few years back). So to run up a $19,370 bill, the kid transferred about 993 megabytes.

    To take a Rogers phone into the US and roam on AT&T costs 3 cents per kilobyte. To transfer the same data, his bill would be north of $29K.

    • benbell says:

      @Employees Must Wash Hands: According to: [www.wireless.att.com] the cost pr KB of data is $.005 if you have the roaming plan. I know carriers have allowed consumers to retroactively enroll in these plans before (Verizon let my in-laws do it) so I feel the best of both worlds would be to allow this family to retroactively enroll in this plan and pay the extra cost for the year.

  28. benbell says:

    I understand that they didn’t know it would cost $20k for this data plan in Canada but they were CLEARLY ripped off.

    AT&T Offers a data plan for NA allowing up to 100MB of usage in Canada with an overage of $.005KB for an additional $109.99 a month.

    Some places it says that they must sign up for a 1 or 2 year agreement which would still be a whopping $1300-$2700 or so which is nothing NEAR the $20k they have to pay.

    Lets just say that the cost of their data plan is $.005KB, which it must be that or less than that since they would be selling it for a loss. So at $20,000 their son would have had to download almost 4 gigs of data to reach that price.

    So while they should have researched these plans and all, I think ATT should be cutting them a break considering it’s OBVIOUSLY not costing them that much money and I would call it extortion.

    • Parting says:

      @benbell: All USA’s companies have agreements with local Canadian companies. However, they are negociated in advance (where you get 1/2 y contract to insure profitability, if the rate is cheaper than standard).

      However, it would demand from the customer a certain level of research/questioning which characterize responsible consumers. In this case, consumers are ”guilty” of a certain level of naivete, or maybe even geographical ignorance.

  29. jhurley03 says:

    I used to work at AT&T customer service and they will get most of this credited back. It is the consumers fault that they didn’t do the research to see if there would be international charges for using the card outside of the U.S.

  30. 4ster says:

    @victo: I though Virgin in the US was on Sprint’s network. Is that not the case?

  31. madog says:

    It is ridiculous. Yes the kid should have known, but that’s not the point. Phone companies should be responsible in some way to prevent or at least inform the customer of what is happening. Just like a credit card company will inform someone of strange charges a telecom should also find it in there best interest to report unusual usage as well.

    Getting your card/phone stolen can cause a company to not receive what is owed in charges/interest, therefor a red flag should immediately go up so that THEY know, “Hey, either this person lost their product and we ain’t gonna get paid or they are bending over backwards to give us their money and our execs are getting a bigger bonus this year. Let’s call them and see what’s up.”

    There, a huge problem solved. If the person didn’t know what they were doing they will immediately stop and then are required to pay the current damage without letting it rack up to a ridiculous amount.

    “Excuse me, sir. You have currently accrued $200 in roaming charges which is unusual for your account. Now would be a good time to stop, but according to the contract you signed with us you will be obligated to pay the fee because we don’t exist in the country you are in; and you are way, way, WAY outside our coverage zone.”

    Well, at least that all sounds better to me then charging them 19k, looking like an asshole, getting bad press, and then trying to save face by reducing it to a much smaller amount and therefor putting in much more time, effort, and money than would be required to simply warn them in the first place.

  32. Nick1693 says:

    An AT&T representative said they’re treating the matter seriously and looking into it. According to the company, they hope to have an answer for the family in the next few days.

    Taking it seriously?

  33. I was in asscrackistan for a 2 months, it was $5 a minute to call back to the US from there. $19,000 would have gotten me 3800 minutes of talking. 3800 minutes is 63 hours or 2.6 days. Something doesn’t quite add up, cause I can’t imagine that it is more expensive in Canada than a central Asian country to call back to the US.

    • RandomMutterings says:

      @johnarlington:

      Yes, this is the great lie of phone billing — data plans and data transmission is almost pure profit for carriers.

      It ALMOST makes you want to regulate it.

  34. Propaniac says:

    While I understand those saying it’s purely the consumer’s fault (although the “who doesn’t automatically know that blahblahblah” rhetorical questions are just tiresome), I do think this is a case where there should be safeguards in place to protect the consumer. It seems to me that when any user with a normal bill in the low hundreds is suddenly racking up several thousand dollars worth of charges, there’s a very very very small chance that it’s intentional and the company should be required to assume that it’s not. If such a user really is planning to rack up such charges, they could call and inform the company beforehand, like when you’re going to be using your credit card overseas.

  35. cerbie says:

    Did the phone state that it was not on AT&T anymore? My phone, FI, says it is on AT&T, and if it finds other networks, I can use them…or not. I don’t know how the AT&T branded firmwares do it.

    Let’s see, though: $19k phone bill? Even guys who get drunk and spend too much at strip joints tend to get off the hook on occasion, and they should have known better.

    AT&T wants to look good, but not change their plans, because at $19k and your local news calling, it’s not good for them. At $2k and you calling customer service only, it’s very good for them.

    • jamar0303 says:

      @cerbie: Some phones will not show the network name, ostensibly for the “purpose” of “enjoying the wallpaper”, but conveniently enough it also makes a phone call in, say, Niagara Falls a game of Russian Roulette- Are you on AT&T or Rogers? A similar case happened in Japan, where people living close to Korea found that their phones would lock onto Korean signal because it was stronger than that of the local network.

      That’s mostly phones of Asian manufacture, though.

  36. BoomerFive says:

    What is everyone worried about? It says right in the article that “AT&T is taking this very seriously”! No problem!

  37. theblackdog says:
  38. bluewyvern says:

    Notice how the newscaster even choked on the word “seriously”?

  39. BrianDaBrain says:

    That is kind of BS. I racked up huge overage charges one month with Verizon due to some emergencies that happened to all hit at the same time, and they called me pretty quickly to make sure my phone wasn’t stolen. AT&T should have done the same thing here. This particular article could actually fall into the “Taking it seriously” series. :)

  40. oneandone says:

    I’m very suspicious of AT&T, and doubt they explained things thoroughly to the family. Way back (before the Cingular merge) I had an AT&T plan for my ‘home region’ of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania (this was before nationwide plans were standard). Turns out when they said “New York” they meant the city, not the state – and when I visited a friend in Syracuse I came home to a relatively huge bill and one $300 phone call I made while waiting for a bus to the train.

    Nowadays, I’d fight the bill – but all I had was a map where the salesperson had vaguely circled my area and a phone conversation with a rep before the trip who confirmed my area was NY, NJ, and PA. So I complained unsuccessfully, paid the full bill, and jumped the second I could. And I don’t doubt for a second that they are intentionally vague in order to have misinformed customers who end up spending a lot more than they intended.

  41. junip says:

    May I reference a consumerist story from years past? You all remember that one where the reps couldn’t tell the difference between .002 dollars and .002 cents? Granted it’s Verizon instead of AT&T, but they may as well be the same company as far as I’m concerned.

    [consumerist.com]