T-Mobile Customer Runs Up $201,000 Phone Bill

A woman in Florida recently bought her brother a phone and put him on her plan. But little did she know that her brother’s two-week trip to Canada would result in a 43-page bill for more than $201,000.

“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!” The woman tells WSVN-TV about her reaction to the mammoth bill.

Apparently what had happened was that her brother had not turned the data roaming off on his phone during his trip to Canada. More than 2,000 texts and a number of downloaded videos later and — at $10/megabyte — you end up with a phone bill larger than many mortgages.

While T-Mobile says it sent several texts to the brother alerting him of the rates, the sister believes she should have been given a heads-up at some point before things got into six-digit territory. “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,” she says.

Though it had no obligation to do so, T-Mobile eventually decided to slash the bill to $2,500 and gave the customer six months to pay off that amount.

Help Me Howard: High phone bill [WSVN.com]

Thanks to Jordan for the tip!


Edit Your Comment

  1. mauispiderweb says:

    I wanna know what the brother has to say about all this. And, Florida!

    • Kung Foo says:

      Me too. It appears to me that he didn’t give a care how much it would be costing his sister if he was getting notices from T-Mobile about it. But hey, won’t know until we hear him speak.

    • kewpie says:

      Yes, but that’s not the same as alerting the primary account holder (who is the only person liable for the bills). Her brother is, most likely, an adult and should have been more responsible. However, millions of people have their children on their cell phone plans and some of those children are very young. Sending a text message only to the phone running up the charges does nothing to notify the person responsible for the bill.

      The person responsible for the bill (the primary account holder) should be the one to receive the notices.

  2. pop top says:

    Make the brother pay the bill off and then kick him off the plan (make him pay the ETF as well).

  3. MutantMonkey says:

    I still think that accounts should get flagged the second they go 100% over the avg billing of the previous six months.

    This would ensure that this type of insanity never happens.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      And when that flag goes up, would it say, send a text message to the phone saying it was over the amount?

      • HSVhockey says:

        Most likely this is the only way they would do it (or DID it in this case). I’m hoping for something more active, like “you are about to be charged more than your base billing rate, respond with 12345 to this text to acknowledge” and if you don’t respond, that part of your phone (data, voice, etc) goes dead. Pipe dream though, I know.

        This brother sounds like an ignorant jerkoff, but still a LOT of people don’t know how to turn off data roaming before leaving the country.

        • MutantMonkey says:

          Yeah, I like this. Some sort of lockout if recognition of the issue doesn’t happen. It would just prevent all kinds of issues.

    • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

      I think that some of these cell phone companies could make some extra money if they start offering an “over draft protection” like banks.

      A fee per month (say, $5-$10) that will halt your data usage once you go over by a certain amount. You’d get a text saying so. Now, they say they don’t want to cut off data usage in case you want it in an emergency. They could have a feature where you send a text, and you reply to it to get the data turned back on.

    • KyBash says:

      I would like to see them do graduated alerts — at 100% over normal, they send you a text; at 250%, they do an automated call; when it approaches 500% or $1,000 (whichever is less), the user must respond or get the service suspended.

      • ClemsonEE says:

        I feel the “respond or your account will be suspended” should happen at maybe double your usual bill. Obviously something out of the ordinary is occurring for you to start doubling your usual bill.

      • StarKillerX says:

        Yeah because we can’t expect people to be responsible for their own actions can we? Especially when, in this case he was notified at least a few times of his overages but ignored the texts.

      • Actionable Mango says:

        And when it reaches 10,000%, flying ninja/dragon hybrids should leap upon the brother and warn him in person?

        What’s the brother’s defense here, really? I ignored the contract because nobody reads that stuff anyway, then I saw the multiple text message warnings and ignored them because, uh, because… uh, what exactly?

      • kc2idf says:

        I have a better idea. How about when you hit something you haven’t opted in to, it doesn’t work?

        Carrying a cell phone should not be a financial minefield.

    • deathbecomesme says:

      Problem with this is that there is already fine print on Roaming. If you don’t read it whos fault is that?

      • MutantMonkey says:

        I’m not seeing the problem you are talking about. Care to actually explain what that is?

        As for the fine print, congrats, you are one of the few that actually combs through all of that. Your Cookie will arrive in 6-8 weeks.

        • deathbecomesme says:

          Excuse me if I don’t b*tch and moan when a company does exactly what it says in its contracts it has the power to do. You agree to the contract to receive the goods or services. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. It’s the uninformed consumers we can blame for Binding Arbitration and a bunch of other crap that companies use against us because whenever someone tries to do something about it they say “look, we have proof they like it because so many of them agree to it in our contracts”.

          Your idea was to require the companies to do something to protect the consumers. I argue that it is the consumers responsibility to protect themselves. The first step is becoming informed and knowing your rights

          • MutantMonkey says:

            Still waiting to hear what the problem was with my idea.

            • deathbecomesme says:

              The problem with your idea is that it places the responsibilities of the consumer on the companies. I said that in my post above

          • Exclave says:

            Absolutely right death! Let’s show those no good contracts who’s boss by boycotting cell phone service and cancelling all our plans. How about you be the first to light the way and cancel that binding arbitration contract. Then we can go back and get a new contract and they will let us line out parts of the contract that we don’t agree too.

            • deathbecomesme says:

              That would be the correct response if I had an issue with the contract. Since I follow my contract and my bill is the same every month I see no breach and no dispute where I would need to use my arbitration clause.

          • Round-Eye 外人はコンスマリッストが好きです。 says:

            Agreed. Remember, though, that this is Consumerist and corporations are rarely in the right according to the majority of commenters. But yeah, with all the media attention, even outside of Consumerist, about mobile carriers and roaming and exorbitant fees, it’s almost implausible that anyone wouldn’t know about data and voice services outside the US being ridiculously expensive. I blame the brother, not T-Mobile. Alas, we’re in the minority for siding with the carrier. And, apparently we’re in the minority for having common sense and not resorting to hyperbole.

            • MutantMonkey says:

              So having a difference of opinion on how companies ultimately ensure that their customers are taken care of is lacking common sense?

              Please do explain that one. I can’t wait to read this.

      • malraux says:

        Its not as though these wireless companies have no control over their contract language or billing practices.

    • frank64 says:

      So loaning someone your phone, you are giving them access to $250K of your money?

      I tried to get a spending limit on my phone and they told me “my account isn’t eligible”. They really don’t mind when this happens. Most are much lower and the outrages is less. I am sure they make lots more money this way.

      • dangermike says:

        The $2500 that it was “slashed” to is still ridiculous. I can’t help but think this is part of the ploy. Cut another zero off of the tab and the lesson is still learned, and I have a feeling T-mobile wouldn’t be losing money on the deal.

        I wouldn’t pay. (but then again, I also wouldn’t associate my account with a flake, either)

        • hugothebear says:

          so when Rogers Wireless sends T-Mobile the bill….

          • dangermike says:

            What bill?

            Seriously, I don’t think they’ll be billing each other. If so, there’s no way it’s going to be in the thousands of dollars for this kind of thing. I think it is much more likely that T-mobile takes the approach of sending stupid huge bill so that when they bring it down to the order of magnitude above a reasonable fee, the mark — err, customer — feels relieved and is more willing to let themselves get steamrolled.

    • Jawaka says:

      It sounds as if the account did. T-Mobile said that they sent texts to the brother about the rates. According to the story the brother sent over 2000 texts so he can’t use the excuse that he never noticed the texts because he doesn’t use them. It seems to me that as ridiculous as the bill was the services charged for were actually used. Now bring on the 20+ posts from people who feel that the customers should be allowed to say what a company should be able to charge for their services.

    • FrugalFreak says:

      1 word


  4. Kung Foo says:

    And this is why you don’t put cell phones in your name for other people. How many cases have they done for this in People’s Court?

    Props to T-Mobile, but boo to the OP’s bro.

  5. dolemite says:

    Once again..2000 text messages and some videos probably cost the company like $2. Lesson learned: don’t ever put non-tech savvy friends and family on your cell phone plan!

    • Cat says:

      Lesson learned: don’t ever put ANY friends and family on your cell phone plan!

      I fix it 4 u.

    • ajaxd says:

      Which company? It’s international roaming – the company in the host country bills whatever rate is standard and T-Mobile passes the cost along to the customer. If there is no prearranged agreement for the account then bills can be astronomical. $2500 is a pretty good deal in this case.

      • YouDidWhatNow? says:

        Citation needed. I don’t believe this “cost” the carrier any significant amount of money. I’d guess closer to $10.

        • guspaz says:

          Yes and no. The question is, who is “the carrier” here? Rogers, who he probably roamed on, or AT&T, who billed him?

          The phone is on Rogers network, Rogers bills AT&T an exorbitant price, AT&T marks it up farther and passes it on.

          The cost to deliver service for Rogers is extremely tiny, but Rogers isn’t the one billing the customer, AT&T is. If AT&T gives a discount, they still have to pay Rogers the agreed upon rate, and the customer can’t go to Rogers to complain because he’s not Rogers’ customer.

          Of course, this is a tit-for-tat. Rogers charges AT&T a fortune for roaming, and AT&T charges Rogers a fortune for roaming. If I use my Fido (discount carrier owned by Rogers) phone in the US, I pay $1.45 per minute for voice, $0.75 per text, and $10,000 per gigabyte.

    • smo0 says:

      I would die – I can easily send 500 text messages a day…. I’m not kidding.
      My android stops the count at 200 – then I delete them and start over again… one of my friends moved back in town – and just with texting him alone, I usually have to clear it out 3-4 times…and reminder, that’s when I NOTICE if the text count has reached 200.
      Since my mother has found the joys of text messaging – it could be double, who knows…

    • homehome says:

      If u don’t like erms don’t agree2 the contract, simple. He was notified and kept fuckin up. And ppl on here r stil making excuses.

    • homehome says:

      If u don’t like erms don’t agree2 the contract, simple. He was notified and kept fuckin up. And ppl on here r stil making excuses.

      • Conformist138 says:

        Probably because the woman on the hook for the bill didn’t do anything wrong beyond being nice to her brother.

        She makes a good point- don’t just notify the person with the phone, notify the account holder! The person with the phone could be a teenager or an idiot. The person financially responsible for the bill should be considered the primary point of contact for all billing issues.

        • Kaleey says:

          Or the person with the phone could be a small child, or someone who stole your phone and is doing this for giggles.

          The phone AND the phone of the primary account holder should be notified. Not just one or the other – BOTH of them. And I don’t think that that is placing the burden of responsibility on the carriers. It’s like the “DIIMI” light on your fuel guage (“d*** it I mean it” – light) – just letting you know, in case you want to do something about it.

  6. crispyduck13 says:
    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      It was:

      “While T-Mobile says it sent several texts to the brother alerting him of the rates….”

  7. Mackinstyle1 says:

    The rates are insane but people who think it’s everyone’s responsibility but theirs really grind my gears. I have no sympathy.

    • sagodjur says:

      This site used to be about consumers, but it’s devolved into self-righteous people with good jobs that always pay off their credit card balance each month, never do anything nice for others out of fear of ending up on Judge Judy, and use the comments section to engage in the five minutes hate.

      • JHDarkLeg says:

        I absolutely agree. This site has turned into the CorporateApologist.com, where commenters will find any excuse to side with the company.

        Hey assholes, we are quite aware that those big nonnegotiable contracts contain many clauses which explain exactly why the company can legally ream you with a broomstick and take your firstborn. That doesn’t change the fact that the actions unfair and against the consumer. The purpose of this site is to try to help consumers REGARDLESS of that fact.

        Might as well change the slogan at the top from “Shopper bite back” to “More retarded than 4chan”.

        • StarKillerX says:

          So, it appears that to you “unfair action” means making you responsible for your own action? Yeah the nerve of those evil companies actually expecting me to follow our agreement?

          What’s next, will the bank that holding my car loan expect me to pay them back for it? Bastards!

          • JHDarkLeg says:

            The unfair action is a company charging orders of magnitude more than it costs them to provide the service. They are entitled to a profit, but they should not be entitled to a 100x the cost of service worth of profit.

            TL;DR You don’t care about consumers so why the hell are you here?

            • Round-Eye 外人はコンスマリッストが好きです。 says:

              But isn’t one of the tenets of Consumerist the mantra of “vote with your wallet”. It’s perfectly acceptable to have a mobile phone without a data plan. Hell, we went decades without mobile phones at all. So, if you’re so against the mobile carriers charging exorbitant fees, you can vote with your wallet. The OP chose not to do so and engaged in a contract wherein she agreed to pay admittedly-outrageous fees for roaming.

              I agree that the profit the carriers are turning is ludicrous and almost seems immoral, but those are the stipulations of the contract, plain and simple.

      • Sorta Kinda Lucky Soul says:

        And use credit unions exclusively for all financial related issues.

  8. deathbecomesme says:

    No sympathy for uninformed consumers. They went above and beyond by dropping it to $2500. Take the deal and sue your brother in small claims court for reimbursement.

    • humphrmi says:

      Maybe it’ll end up in The People’s Court ;-)

      • deathbecomesme says:

        I hope not because the show pays your debts for you. The person learns nothing because there are no penalties

        • Kung Foo says:

          Does it? I thought they paid both parties a little bit for taking part and that was it.

          • humphrmi says:

            Actually, I sued someone and was contacted by one of those court shows. Both parties have to agree to appear, and the defendant in my case didn’t agree (probably because he would have lost on TV). It works like this: both parties get paid to appear. The payment is generally quite a bit higher than the small claims limit. If the plaintiff wins, the amount he/she wins is taken out of the defendant’s pay and given to the plaintiff. The defendant still walks away with more money than they arrived with. If the case is dismissed or no money awarded, both parties simply walk away with their full appearance fee.

            Oh also the corporate entity that you sign up with to appear is a licensed arbitration company, so you have to agree to manditory binding arbitration for your case in order to appear. Which really isn’t so bad considering both parties sort of win.

            Finally they’re mostly all filmed in Chicago and they only take cases from the Cook County Circuit Court.

    • sirwired says:

      The problem is that they informed the phone holder of the overage, not the account owner that was responsible for paying it.


      Remember… the corporation needs to be paid above all. Consume. Obey.

    • coren says:

      The consumer wasn’t informed…because Tmobile didn’t inform her of the billing overages that were happening for some “privacy” concern.

      • deathbecomesme says:

        She was informed. When she signed the contract it said she would be billed “roaming” charges for going out of area. She either did not read the contract or didn’t relay the info to her brother. In either case she is at fault for knowing the specifics of her contract. In a court of law “ignorance” would be a good case.

    • torok says:

      The contracts they offer are unfair but from what I understand would still hold up in court. If this is true then the contracts need to be regulated by the government to protect the consumer. I normally would not advocate regulating private contracts but I feel it is appropriate for cell companies. The government grants the cell companies the privilege to broadcast on public airwaves and therefore has more regulative power over them than they do with most other industries.

  9. Portlandia says:

    “T-Mobile eventually decided to slash the bill to $2,500”

    Proof positive that the international roaming rates are nothing more than a gotcha, we’re going to rape you and charge you as much we want because we can rates. If the company was really out anything close to $201k they wouldn’t be reducing the bills by 99%.

    • Firethorn says:

      In this case, he was probably ‘mostly’ saved by being a deaf/mute. If they didn’t slash the bill they might of gotten 0% AND a lawsuit for violating the ADA or something. Note: Not a lawyer, consult a real one.

      Note for other consumers: Companies suck in general. Cell phone companies suck harder as a matter of course. KNOW YOUR CONTRACT, and only let people use ‘your’ credit who you reasonably trust!

  10. shepd says:

    *Now* do people in the US believe me when I say the costs of a mobile phone in Canada are insane, even compared to the already crazy US prices?

    • failurate says:

      Are saying that Canadians pay these rates for their service?

      • shepd says:

        Depends on how much you download. There was a time, not as long as as Canadians would like to think it was, when you’d pay $30 for about 300 kilobytes of service (back around 1998, IIRC, that was what I paid).

        Now, the usual bad eggs are charging 5 cents per megabyte. $201,000 would buy you 4 TB of service at that rate, so obviously most of that is roaming fees on top of a heavy amount of usage.

        I’d say the $2,500 is the cost of the service used in Canada, which would be 50 GB of usage (A little less, actually, since they’d make you buy a voice plan with it). Not all that impossible if you tethered the phone. Or it could be text messages, which are $0.20 a piece, so 12,500 texts. Or a mix of both.

        (All the prices I’m quoting are from the big incumbent, Bell).

        I imagine you guys in the US aren’t paying 20 cents a text or 5 cents per MB for data. Or I hope that’s the case!

        Just for reference, US Roaming for a Canadian using Rogers (too lazy to look up Bell, all the top three pretty much have identical pricing for everything here) is 0.6 cents per kb, so $201k buys 33 GB of usage in the US for us.

        Just for comparison, Verizon seems to charge 1 cent per MB. That’s 1/5th of Canadian prices.

        • Rena says:

          From the post itself: “More than 2,000 texts and a number of downloaded videos later and — at $10/megabyte — you end up with a phone bill larger than many mortgages.”

  11. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    That’s over 140 texts and video downloads per day – including the T-mobile usage alerts.

    It would be nice though to have a user option to set a max per day.

    • josephbloseph says:

      According to the linked article, the brother is deaf/mute, so he only really uses the phone for texting and internet.

  12. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    If you’re a primary account holder, you should have the option to opt in to getting usage alerts for certain family members, but it shouldn’t be a default and she shouldn’t have assumed T-Mobile would have done that for her even though she’s a primary account holder. I’ve been on family plans with my parents and they didn’t get the alerts I got related to my use, and they wouldn’t have wanted to, either.

    And it’s slightly misleading for her to say her brother is “special,” but you know, he’s in college and he can travel to Canada, so he’s not incompetent or mentally disabled. I see an element of personal responsibility that should be addressed by everyone in the family. Her insistance of “I don’t know how the charges got so high or whatever” speaks to some ignorance. It’s her responsibility to make sure the people who are on her plan take some responsibility themselves.

    • jefeloco says:

      My wife and I have At&t with my line as the primary and I am the only one who receives warnings about potential overages on either line. I never set anything like that up and actually wish they would send the alerts to her since SHE is the one about to hit her limit, not me. We have the 200MB data plans on our iPhones and At&t has been kind enough to send alerts when one of us hits 75 and 90% for the last year or so.

      Luckily for our budget, my wife now turns off 3G data unless she is specifically going to use it. Just about anywhere she uses the phone has Wifi access anyway.

    • Kung Foo says:

      Yeah, he’s a normal, functioning human being. I’m sure he’d like to be treated like everyone else, too.

      It’s not like try tried to call and tell him so he couldn’t hear them, but he got texts of it. From the sound of it, multiple ones at that. It seems like he either ignored them and doesn’t want to fess up about it or he idiotically managed to miss every single one.

      • DariusC says:

        Or the company is lying. Who’s going to prove otherwise?

        • Kung Foo says:

          I don’t see any complaints from either bro or sis about them believing T-Mobile is lying. They could’ve dug through his messages and found one, who knows. But if they thought the company didn’t, they would’ve complained about it, wouldn’t they? Wouldn’t you?

  13. Pete the Geek says:

    So what is the credit limit for a cell phone plan? When do they cut off service? What if the brother had extend the trip to four weeks, would the bill have been 500,000? Would T-Mobile cut it off at $1M? 500M? Is unlimited liability for charges reall enforceable in a contract? Perhaps they cut the bill down to earth because they know it would not stand legal scrutiny.


    I love how people act like it’s perfectly reasonable to even have a phone bill that is $200,000 and T-Mobile are stand-up guys because they reduced it to a still completely unreasonable $2500. Never change, Consumerist posters.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      It’s not reasonable…but what’s lost in all this is the fact that T-Mobile supposedly warned the cell phone user. If those warnings were ignored, and the user didn’t understand roaming charges, using data and text internationally, then what should T-Mobile do? No, it shouldn’t cost $201,000. It probably shouldn’t even cost $2,500. But that is a different point than the user himself not taking responsibility, and the sister (who says she is very close to her brother) not knowing her brother is out of the country and racking up charges. Or knowing he is out of the country, and not making sure ahead of time that he knows about roaming charges and why he shouldn’t use his data plan outside of the US.

      • Kung Foo says:

        ^This. Totally agree.

        Heck, I think we should be like other countries and only pay for the texts and calls we make rather than that AND the ones we receive.

      • Rena says:

        Suspend the account and/or notify the actual account holder once the bill hits twice its usual amount?

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      What do you consider a reasonable amount?


        Leagues away from $2500.

        How about actual cost x 50? So like… a few hundred, tops?

    • Geekybiker says:

      Yah, I have no idea how 2 weeks on phone charges in Canada could cost the carriers anything close to $200k. I wonder if you could call the space station for less?


        I think you could literally get a 24/7 hooker for that 2 weeks and pay a lot less. What was that phone doing that was worth $201,000?

      • Nobody can say "Teehee" with a straight face says:

        You could actually GO to space for less, with that new space travel thing in new mexico.

  15. Cat says:

    I ♥ my prepaid phone, because they can’t do this to me.

  16. pinteresque says:

    Some of the comments here are obscene – somebody explain to me how it’s justifiable for 2000 text messages to cost 5+ years salary for a normal person.


      No it’s totally cool because our benevolent overlords at T-Mobile lowered it to a couple months worth of average salary!

      • Michaela says:

        If you are only making 15k a year (or 2500 every two months) you seriously need to realize you are well below average.


        If you make about $750 a week, you should make about $2500 in a month. Yes, it would take more than a month to pay the bill (because you do need to buy food, pay rent, etc.), but by setting back $50 every week and pulling $1250 out of your emergency fund, you can meet the 6 month deadline for paying the bill.

        The original bill was unreasonable, but unfortunately, it isn’t like you aren’t warned. Obviously, T-Mobile has the decency to realize that their automatic billing formula completely screwed the customer and was willing to make the fee less extreme.


          I think anything over a week’s salary for this type of “service” is garbage, but thanks for the literal interpretation.

    • StarKillerX says:

      Obviously you missed where he was downloaded a bunch of movies while roaming also.

      As for it being justified? Well you mean other then the fact that not only was he notified repeatedly about the charges building up but I’m sure the t-mobile contract warns of roaming rates.

      It’s funny how to so many on this site consumers are never wrong and companies are never right.


        Funny how some posters are on the opposite side too. like with Steve Jobs avatars

        • StarKillerX says:

          No, I believe companies are wrong often, and should be held accountable when they are, but so should individuals.

  17. NightSteel says:

    It’d be really nice if there were a way to just prevent overages administratively, the same way we have a choice to have overdraft protection or not. “When I, or anyone on my account, reach my minutes/message/data limit or reach a predetermined bill threshold, such as 200% of my last bill, cut me off and notify me, as the account holder.”

  18. Bodger says:

    “…two week..” & “…2,000 texts…” comes out to ~143 texts per day. Surely she should have known ahead of time that her brother was an idiot but since she intentionally allowed him on her plan it may actually be an inherited trait. I’ll bet she co-signs for his loans too.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      That definitely sounds like something my idiot brother in-law would do.

    • ballistic90 says:

      Her brother was deaf/mute. There are plenty of deaf/mute people that rely on their cell phone for a lot of their communication with others, and usually by text/email.

  19. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    One of the largest bills I ever saw as an AT&T CSR had to deal with roaming data. It’s ludicrous, and it’s ridiculous that they made it $2,500 even – Backdate the frickin Canada Data package and its cut even more than that.

    Obviously T-mobile isn’t has friendly as AT&T would’ve been.

  20. Admiral_John says:

    So, according to the article:

    1) Her brother “didn’t bother” to turn off data roaming.

    2) Her brother ignored the messages that he was going over the limit.

    I hope she took away his phone, kicked him off the plan and is making him pay the bill.

  21. CosmosHuman says:

    I don’t even know what 200k looks like.

    OTOH, why didn’t T-Mobile shit the phone off?

    If my dearest daughter did this it would be curtains to pay!

    • CosmosHuman says:

      I meant “shut the phone off”! Damn, I need more coffee.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I think there’s a liability issue. Just because you’re racking up overage fees doesn’t mean you don’t need your phone, and who knows when there might be an emergency. You don’t owe payment until the billing cycle ends.

      • jackbishop says:

        ISTR that 911 works even on a deactivated phone.

        What surprises me about this kind of story is that a bill is basically an unsecured short-term credit line. Would T-Mobile (or any of these other companies which provide these insane bills to customers) seriously claim that it is their corporate policy to provide 6 figures of unsecured credit to customers? If they contend that the product they’re providing is worth the price they charge (which doesn’t seem to actually be the case), it seems to follow that they’re providing an awful lot of monetary value with no security, which is terrible business practice.

  22. backinpgh says:

    Funny how you do one odd thing on a credit card or bank account and they lock it up like a maximum security prisoner, but do thousands of odd things with your mobile phone and they don’t give a crap.

    • Peggee is deeply offended by impetulant, pernicious little snots disrespecting her and violating her personal space at Best Buy. says:

      If the phone companies were required to eat the charges like banks have to when credit card fraud happens, they’d shut you down too.

  23. Supes says:

    I’m assuming the videos were a much larger source of the bill than the texts. At $10/MB, 20 GB of downloaded data would reach about $200,000.

    Even if the texts were a portion of the bill (say, $10,000 or something), that’s still a HUGE amount of data to receive through a data plan. MASSIVE. It indicates that someone is tethering their computer to their phone, and probably downloading a ton of movies also.


      Well you see, in Canada, data is a rare commodity. They don’t have data mines or data refineries like in the U.S. so it’s naturally more expensive.

    • Herbz says:

      20 GB is not a HUGE MASSIVE amount of data. I can guarantee that in 10 years time, that will be the average.

      Say 30 min of youtube videos is 200 MB. Say he watches those for 5 hours a day (not hard to do if you are bored.) Multiply that by 5 days and you have 20 GB.

      Actual data costs for the Canadian company were probably something like $2/GB (x3 for profit, so $6/GB). That means the Canadian company probably charged T-Mobile something like 120 bucks.

      I would agree with something close to that. (Maybe $200 in overages).

      Data is CHEAP AS SHIT. It is CHEAP AS SHIT anywhere you go that isn’t a third-world country.

      • Supes says:

        10 years time, not today.

        The average amount of data used by people on a smartphone plan is around 400 MB. The 99th percentile of data users use about 5 GB.

        It is a massive amount of data. I’m not saying one can’t reach it if they want to (obviously you mentioned 5 hours of YouTube a day), but there’s no question it’s a lot.

        • Herbz says:

          It is still not a “MASSIVE” amount of data.

          Majority of the costs for phone-based data is in the wireless signal anyway, not the amount of data you pump over it.

          even if Wireless data was 100x more expensive than wired data it would still be ~10x less than the $2000 price they cut it down to, and would be 1000x less than the $200000 price

    • JoeDawson says:

      2000 texts is only 320kb if my math is correct… so yeah it must of been GIGABYTES of videos… Tethering not required if he simply pulls the memory card and transfers it to a laptop.

  24. Bob Lu says:

    The really alarming thing is that T-M agreed “to slash the bill to $2,500”. So how high the regular profit ratio is?

  25. LanMan04 says:

    Fuck that, I’d drop them and not pay a dime. Good luck collecting, assbags.

    • StarKillerX says:

      Yeah because it’s obviously their fault that you ignore the texts warning you of your overages.


        Pay the corporation. The beast must be fed even if it breaks you. Obey. Consume.

        • StarKillerX says:

          So basically why accept responsibility for your own actions when you can blame a company for it?

          Do I like the roaming rates, international or not? Nope, and the solution to those rates are not to use the service as opposed to using it and then complaining about the rates.

          Do you buy a sports car, agree to pay $1,200 a month for it and then when the bill comes due whine like a bitch and complain about the evil car company who expects you to actually pay for it?

          • deathbecomesme says:

            Don’t feed the troll. He’s trolling this story more than usual


              Yep, if you disagree with the corporate apologists, you’re trolling!


            If my hypothetical sports car generated a charge that cost me more than 1000 times my regular monthly fee, you’re damn right I wouldn’t pay it. Bad analogy.

            I swear I’ve seen you in threads discussing companies mispricing items online and refusing to offer it at that price on the company’s side. Why is their “personal responsibility” less applicable than ours?

            • deathbecomesme says:

              Because there is a disclaimer when they post those wrong prices. Again, its about not reading the fine print. Fail.

  26. SeattleSeven says:

    That is only $4,674.56 per page.

  27. tundey says:

    I think phone companies should update their system so customers can’t rack up that much one a single phone in a month. Gosh!

  28. Bog says:

    $10/megabyte is totally insane and vulgar. I could see 10¢/megabyte as a reasonable roaming price.

    Yeah, internationally, if I used my US cell phone I could see $5.00/min + 45¢ texts + $10/mb. I got a local SIMM card with 100 minutes & 500 texts for an initial cost of Rp|45,000 (about $23.00). A couple gig of data was like $4.00. Additional minutes were $2.50/200 min. International calls was charged at like “4 minutes per minute.” Get a local prepaid phone or card… I ended up getting a phone locally, full price for a nice new phone? About $25.00. The same phone here? Over $150.00.

    What was really odd is that I had more reliable cell coverage in Indonesia than I get at home in the US and in Canada.

  29. CubeRat says:

    re: Florida
    First, unlike many of our elected officials who wish to treat us all a 5 year old children; I would like to say that I believe adults should be allowed to make their own decisions and should be held accountable for their own actions. Except in cases of mental deficiency, where the person is declared incompetent and is put under the conservatorship of another; ie: advanced dementia or severe brain damage/injury.

    This being said, I believe it is the responsibility of the rest of the United States to take conservatorship of Florida. I nominate North Dakota as the conservator, because I don’t hear of much sh*t coming from ND (unlike CA, NY, NV, AZ and hands down winner DC!).

    Now to the content of the post. T-Mobil must make huge profits if they didn’t think to cut off service after 1k of billing due. I mean, honestly, if you sell a service at $50-100/monthly and suddenly the bill shoots so high, don’t you think you’re never gettin’ paid?!!! Even if you only block the calls except calls to your own company until a payment is made. If you customer is mad, so what, who expects a individual with 2 lines to legitimately run up a bill over 1k? And if this was my account, I’d send thank yous and presents to a company that halted service so I could fix the problem.

    Now, if it was my sister who had provided me the phone and I did this, I’d need to go into hiding. My sister would hire a hitman!

  30. MrMagoo is usually sarcastic says:

    Phone companies would do themselves and their customers a favor if they allowed the customer to put a limit on monthly charges – e.g. if my base bill, minutes, texting, and data is $125 + tax/fees, I should be able to pick a limit like $200 for each month. If the bill goes above that, the phone company shuts off service except to 911 and customer service. Then I could call in and see what’s going on. I would much rather have this happen then to be surprised at the end of the month.

  31. TheGreySpectre says:

    I don’t know about T-Mobile, but I know at least ATT sends you a (free) text when you get by the border saying something to the degree of “if you go out of the country we will charge you a huge amount for texts and data” Do other companies not do this?

    • diagoro says:

      I believe the story states text messages were sent, but wondering if they were just ‘lost’ in the shuffle of 150 per day. I guess a call/message to the phone wouldn’t have worked since the person was deaf.

      In the end this is just the mobile companies taking advantage of the situation. Every person is responsible for their own use and charges, but the overage rates are akin to rape. Even $2,500 would kill me personally.

  32. jp7570-1 says:

    T-Mobile did the right thing, but it seems to me there should be some kind of app (Andoird, BlackBerry, iPhone, etc.) that can help track these kinds of issues. (Consumerist has previously reported similar problems with US users near the Canadian border who remain on the US side, but for some reason their phone tells the system it is in Canada.)

    The brother is also clueless.

  33. scottydog says:

    Back when I was on Sprint, they had it set up to where they would shut off my account once I went over a specified amount, usually around $200. I believe they determined the amount based on a credit check when opening the account. They wouldn’t turn my account back on until I paid up.

  34. PsychoRaven says:

    Talk about nice of them.. The woman was stupid as hell for what she did.. You take responsibility for anyone you add to your plan. She added the brother and he ran up the bill. Hence she should have to pay it all.

    • Rommy says:

      She should have to pay it all? Lol, are you serious?

      How do you propose that she do that? As I think it’s pretty safe to assume that the OP isn’t a rockstar, Hollywood celebrity, bestselling author, or the occupant of a corner office at Morgan Stanley, the likelihood of her having access to 200K that could be used to pay her cell phone bill is probably minimal.

      Try to imagine for a minute the outcome if T-Mobile stood its ground and refused to adjust her bill:

      1. Customer cancels her service, gets billed 200K plus ETF.
      2. T-Mobile attempts to collect on bill through internal collections.
      3. Former customer tells T-Mobile where they can stick their bill.
      4. T-Mobile sells debt to a collection agency.
      5. Collection agency attempts to collect the debt.
      6. Collection agency is unsuccessful in their attempts to collect, and sues the customer.
      7. Customer declares bankruptcy. T-Mobile and the collection agency get $0.

      • Rommy says:

        Oh, I should clarify something. T-Mobile doesn’t actually sell the accounts to a collection agency, they have contracts with a dozen or so agencies and they assign accounts to those agencies as per the contract. As far as I understand, no money changes hands unless the agency actually collects something. (So it’s not a situation where they can sell the account for pennies on the dollar.)

        Source: I used to work in T-Mobile Financial Care. (The bill collecting arm of the company.)

  35. Wireless Joe says:

    “I feel the “respond or your account will be suspended” should happen at maybe double your usual bill. Obviously something out of the ordinary is occurring for you to start doubling your usual bill.”

    There’s no winning; in a week there’d be a post on Consumerist that would go something like this:

    “My brother, who’s only connection to his rescuers was via cell phone, died on a Canadian mountain because T-Mobile shut off his service mid-rescue without checking with me first.”

  36. dush says:

    They should offer service that has no overages. It just gets turned off when your allowance is used.
    I think people would even pay a little more for that knowing that you’ll never ever have a chance of getting over charged.

  37. hamhands says:

    at about a 1,000% profit margin, they can afford to let her off the hook. While the rest of the world can pick or choose how they wish to budget their cellular plans, we are forced to sign contracts, and, barring reading every minutia of the fine print, are left guessing what our monthly bills will be. Especially when we do bizarre things (for americans, at least); leave our country.


    Some of the EXACT SAME PEOPLE in this thread calling for the OPs money and how “welp, it’s a mistake, it’s your fault, own up to it” are consistently in threads where stores underprice something accidentally claiming that the company isn’t responsible and “it’s just a mistake.”

    Start looking around at some of the posters here and which side they nearly ALWAYS post on and start eating your own, Consumerist posters.

  39. milty45654 says:

    So they slashed the charge from 200K to 2K. Really makes you wonder what it really costs them. We are most certainly getting overcharged by a large percentage.

  40. RogueGeek says:

    How will this impact her income tax? Can the IRS count the forgiven debt as income?

    Now she may have to pay tax on $198,505. Estimating from this and assuming standard deductions etc, she could be paying over $38,000 in federal income tax.

    “If you settle a debt with a creditor for less than the full amount, or a creditor writes off a debt you owe, you may owe money to the IRS. The IRS treats the forgiven debt as income, on which you may owe income taxes.” from http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/tax-consequences-settled-forgiven-debt-29792.html

    • Rommy says:

      I’m not a tax expert, but as a former T-Mobile CSR I can envision the method they used to lower her bill, and I doubt there is any tax implication. When T-Mobile credits your account for a “mistake” they aren’t really writing off any debt, they are simply acknowledging that your bill is incorrect and then issuing an adjustment through their internal systems to correct the error. It’s really no different then if you went to a restaurant, ordered a hamburger and got charged for a T-bone steak. When the restaurant takes the steak off the bill, there aren’t any tax implications as a result of their action.

      But like I said, I’m not a tax expert, so don’t rely on my advice.

  41. Dr. Shrinker says:

    The screen on my T-Mobile smart phone where I check battery amount also shows any active connections. Frequently, it will show an open data connection, sometimes one that has been connected for 14 hours or more, when I haven’t been using a single app. I don’t know what is accessing the data network, so there’s nothing to shut off. Luckily, I don’t plan on leaving the country any time soon; if I do, I’m locking down data or buying a phone just to use overseas.

  42. ecuador says:

    Ok, this was no accident. It is not “did not turn data roaming off”. The 200k corresponds to 20GB of data. The guy was downloading movies through the cell connection while out of the country. I bet he felt the $20/day wifi his hotel was asking was too much, so his sister could just take care of the data charges instead?
    $2500 is very cheap for an idiot who downloads GB’s while roaming. And 2000 texts in 2 weeks? Seriously? Was the guy deliberately trying to screw his sister (in the metaphorical sense) instead of enjoying a vacation?

    • KhaiJB says:

      erm the 2000 texts cos he’s Deaf….

    • diagoro says:

      The 2000 texts make nothing but sense if he’s deaf. It’s a fail in the sense that he traveled without considering his phone charges (and possibly missing text message warnings).

  43. RayanneGraff says:

    Yeah, she needs to blame her dumbass brother for this, not T-Mobile. I’d say it was 100% her brother’s fault & she needs to make HIM pay the bill. If he refuses to, she needs to take his ass to court.

    Good for T-Mobile for slashing the bill though. This is why I

    • Rommy says:

      You think she should sue her deaf/mute brother over a cell phone bill?

      That’s a great idea! She could even claim emotional suffering and loss of reputation as damages for an extra juicy award! Since it’s a civil case, he wouldn’t be entitled to an attorney, so if she found a good lawyer she could really stick it to him in court!

      Oh, and when he loses, she can get the sheriff to help her enforce the judgment by seizing all of his stuff and holding an auction! How exciting!

      Of course, the tone of the dinner conversation might be a little different this Thanksgiving. I mean, I know a debt is a debt and everything, but Mom, Dad and all the aunts and uncles probably won’t be too amused by the whole affair.

      But who cares, right? Look out for number one, that’s what I say!


  44. DrRonster says:

    Went to canada a month ago for 2 hrs. As I was crossing back phone messaged that I had gone over $50 in roaming. Blow up T-Mobile’s coverage map for Windsor, Ontario and enjoy the huge surprise.

  45. Rommy says:

    T-Mobile actually has a team called the High Balance Team that is supposed to identify accounts where this sort of thing is happening and contact the consumer before the bill goes into the stratosphere. Of course, sometimes things slip through the cracks, as apparently was the case here.

    They also have several Executive Customer Service teams that have basically unlimited adjustment authority, it sounds like she got a hold of someone there. I never saw a bill for 200K, but I did once issue an adjustment for approximately 80K for a situation somewhat similar to this one. (Back in the days when I was a phone monkey.)

  46. somegraphx says:

    I realize this is a whole–it’s the OP’s fault but two things stand out to me.

    1. What if the phone had been stolen–texting the holder of the phone isn’t helpful. I think in this instance, a call to to the account holder would be in order. “Ma’m we’ve noticed some unusual usage–are you aware phone 867-5309 is in a roaming area?”

    2. The fact they cut the bill so drastically shows the true cost of texting–even internationally. They are STILL making a buttload of money on the bill.

  47. deathbecomesme says:

    Their “Positive Customer relations” was taken care of when they offered to drop the debt to $2500. More than what the customer deserved. You can’t claim ignorance when they do what they have always said they would do, which is charge you for roaming out of their network. Why is it so hard to see that we are responsible for our actions alone. Though there is nothing wrong with them implementing a plan similar to what you stated above, they are not contractually obligated to do so. She IS contractually obligated to the terms she agreed to in the contract she signed.

    It all comes back to taking some responsibility and initiative in our lives. Where is the wrong in that?

  48. MikeVx says:

    As long as people have the mindset that things should “just work”, this sort of thing is going to happen. People complain that they shouldn’t have to understand how something works to be able to use it. This statement is about as wrong as it gets. Not understanding the things you use will eventually come back to bite you, the only real question is how big a piece it sill take out of you. I don’t care if it’s your telephone or your toilet, you need to know how it works at a level that means the item can never completely surprise you.

    I have an old Blackberry that I got from a reseller that got it from a European carrier. I got this phone because at the time I got it, AT&T had ONE phone without a camera in it, and the display seemed to be cracking under the weight of my stare. Since it is not in their database, AT&T can’t enforce the compulsory Blackberry plan unless I’m stupid enough to tell them about it, and I deleted the internet credentials so that the phone cannot open a data channel.

    I just have the lowest voice plan they will admit to, and a grandfathered text plan, and even that combination is more than the largest AT&T data plan is worth. So no, I am not getting a genuine smart phone any time soon.

    As the above should indicate, I’m unlikely to get bit by not paying attention, but most people will get lost long before they can be made to understand the things they really should know. Short of government regulation on overages, or social shame associated with technical ignorance, this sort of thing is not going away.

  49. thomwithanh says:

    I don’t know how many times I’ve had to say this…. TAKE THE SIM CARD OUT WHEN YOU TRAVEL ABROAD.

  50. Tenacity says:

    If I travel without informing my bank, they shut down my debit card. I can’t use it. Somehow, this situation reminds me of the bank’s protocol.