T-Mobile Waives $1000 In Roaming Charges, Then Un-Waives Them

While visiting the Philippines with her grandson, Esther had a family emergency and needed to use her T-Mobile phone. She expected a larger than usual bill when she got home, but didn’t expect it to be more than $1,200, including data roaming when Esther doesn’t have data service on her phone in the first place. A friendly customer service representative told her that she would only have to pay $296.14 due to a billing error. Then T-Mobile turned around and told her that yeah, they needed the entire $1,200.

On October 21,2011, I called T-Mobile customer service in regards to my outrageous cell phone bill of a little over $1200.00. I spoke with [A] and explained to her that I was in the Philippines and had my daughter call me as I had her son with me and an emergency had occurred. I was not aware that I would be charged for receiving calls and I also had cell phone to cell phone usage at $0.25 a minute.

[A] was apologetic and informed me that they would fix my bill and I would only have to pay $296.14. I paid that with a check on November 4, 2011 and a couple days later, I received a message from T-Mobile stating that I was still required to pay the balance. I called them back to explain that I had spoken with an [A] and she had assured me that this would be resolved if I paid the $296.14, but the only thing they were willing to do was remove the $163 fee for the internet service that I did not use nor have on my phone.

Among the charges were roaming fees which I was also not aware of. Since that time, I have had to make payments because I am unable to afford to pay off this bill. I feel that it is unfair that they have taken advantage of my ignorance and were unwilling to honor the arrangement that [A], with their customer service department, had agreed to make with me. I have been a loyal customer since 2004 and this is the treatment that I deserve?


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  1. Andrew says:

    I like how they redact the name of the CSR but then not redact it in the last sentence. PROOFREAD your articles!

  2. blogger X says:

    Came for the “I blame the OP” comments.

    Made gluten-free brownies.

    • bhr says:

      OP deserves a big chunk of the blame here, and you can’t make me feel bad about saying that. Not knowing the rules your phone uses doesn’t mean the rules don’t apply.

      I especially love the “I expected a high bill, but not this high” line that comes from every roaming charge article.

      • eldergias says:

        Totally agree. If “I didn’t know” was a valid excuse, I would never read any cell phone contract or pricing sheet and then never have to pay a cell phone bill.

        I do think that there should be a warning to customers when they are going to incur extra charges and the warning should notify them of the cost, that would be the nice thing to do.

        However, a charge for internet on a phone that doesn’t have access to the internet is VERY scummy of them.

        • SpecK says:

          Yeah, she most definately got text messages as soon as stepping out of the country that said something to the effect of ” you may incur additional roaming charges for traveling outside of your home network” she either A) did read; didnt know HOW to read the message or B) just disregarded the message with the “customer is always right” mindset….if she says she didn’t know, they will help, right? Just pay your bill for your ignorance….

    • JoeDawson says:

      I make my own “Blame the OP” comments at home!

  3. eccsame says:

    Not being aware of roaming charges doesn’t mean you aren’t responsible for them.
    Although, I may try this tonight at dinner
    “Waiter, I had no idea this wine was so expensive, otherwise I wouldn’t have ordered five bottles! I demand that you take them off of my bill.”

    • GMFish says:

      I was not aware that I would be charged for receiving calls

      I was not aware that I would be charged for receiving wine!

      • eccsame says:

        yes, bad analogy.
        And she says that they T-Mobile was willing to remove the data roaming fees that she didn’t use – just not anything else.

        • GMFish says:

          So how is my analogy bad? They’re making her pay for what she used. To analogize, they’re making her pay for the very expensive wine she did order, but not the fries she didn’t order.

          • GMFish says:

            My guess is that she did use the data charges. She probably forgot to turn data roaming off and her phone automatically checked her email or something else.

          • eccsame says:

            No, my analogy was bad.
            Since it would be like me saying to the waiter – “I was not aware that I would be charged for receiving wine”.

    • Jules Noctambule says:

      I would have to argue that not having a data-enabled phone probably does mean you aren’t responsible for roaming data charges, though. That alone makes me suspicious that the charges might not be in keeping with the contract.

    • El_Red says:

      If you need a passport to enter a country, you need to check the rates first. Not knowing is not an excuse.

      • rugman11 says:

        Even if you don’t need a passport, you should do this. The first thing I did after booking our honeymoon to St. Croix (a US territory) was to check our cell phone providers’ rules. We discovered that Verizon considered the US Virgin Islands to be roaming while Sprint didn’t, so we took my wife’s Sprint phone and left mine at home.

  4. GMFish says:

    T-Mobile Waives $1200 In Roaming Charges, Then Un-Waives Them

    Gee, I’m getting a little sea sick. I’d better take some Dramamine.

  5. almightytora says:

    “[]” pprntly mns “ngl” frm th cstmr’s nt.

    Ds nyn rlly chck th stry bfr pstng ths dys?

    • JoeDawson says:

      Nice, I haven’t seen a disemvoweling in awhile

      • Cosmo_Kramer says:

        Probably should have deleted the comment though, since it’s pretty obvious what the CSR’s name is even without the vowels (we do have the first vowel). She’s the boss.

      • Cosmo_Kramer says:

        Also, you meant “a while.” “Awhile” literally means “for a while,” as in “why don’t you come in and stay awhile?”

        You effectively said “I haven’t seen a disemvoweling in for a while,” which doesn’t make any sense.

        Very common mistake, but I will eradicate it one person at a time.

  6. Hi_Hello says:

    billing error, pay $296.14, hooraaay.
    oops billing error, pay $1,200, t-mobile evil?!

    other than the data error, I think the bill is legit. This was an emergency, even if before receiving the call tmobile her there would be all these fees, she would have no choice but to use her cell phone and rack up this price.

  7. Sneeje says:

    I sympathize with her frustration, but you cannot claim ignorance of fees after you sign a contract! Besides, it is pretty much common knowledge that when you travel outside of your normal area, that there are going to be fees. You need to research those fees before you use your phone in a situation like this. She might have been better off buying a prepaid phone there, for example.

  8. Snoofin says:

    Sounds like the first CSR she spoke to gave her a discount that she wasnt authorized to give. Front line CSRs rarely are able to reduce your bill by that much especially since the charges were legitimate other than the 163 dollars in data that she shouldnt have to pay. Claiming ignorance and saying they are taking advantage of her because she didnt think it would be so expensive to use her phone to make calls or that she didnt think she would be charged to receive a call is absurd. This is a person who didnt even bother to call T-Mobile and ASK them what it would cost if she made a call overseas or prepay for a temporary international plan.

  9. 12345678nine says:

    Y frgt t rmv “ngl” n tht scnd t lst ln.

  10. Conformist138 says:

    Phones and international travel are always tricky. The way I see it, I wouldn’t just close my eyes and point at a ticket price or at a hotel listing. Why not also look into what your phone carrier charges for international? If the OP had indicated they did any research before the trip, I would be more sympathetic. As it is, I think phone companies rob anyone who travels internationally (the rates and fees just seem extreme), but a little due diligence could have prevented an issue in the first place.

    Hopefully T-Mobile will honor the first rep’s offer, but if not, this seems like a tough ‘live and learn’ moment.

  11. bard329 says:

    In the past 3 months, i have called T Mobile customer service several times. I’ve also been told that everything would be taken care of. I was lied to by 3 different reps and 2 “managers” who i have a feeling were just other reps pretending to have some sort of authority. It took walking into a T Mobile store, speaking with a manager, and having the manager call customer service for me (doing a good deal more yelling at the cs rep than i ever would) to get my problem resolved. T Mo customer service has gotten a lot worse than it used to be in my experience.

    • psm321 says:

      Yep, it started going downhill right around when the AT&T merger was first announced, I suspect in an attempt to lower expectations

      • bard329 says:

        Up until about 6 months ago, i’d never been on hold for longer than 5 minutes with TMobile CS. Now its at least a 45 minute wait. Also asking the reps to make notes on my account at least stating that i’d called in regarding a certain matter… then the next day learning that even something as simple as noting my account had been overlooked (even after asking them to read back what they wrote to me… i guess they just made it up on the spot).

  12. Tyanna says:

    I take my phone with me when I travel, but I only use it for my phone book and my calendar. It sits in flight mode if it’s on.

    If an emergency happens, see if you can get a local prepaid cell phone for cheap. If not, get a calling card. Both are cheaper than paying for roaming!!

    I always hate the “I didn’t know how much it’d cost” line. You are traveling and taking your phone and that’s not something you thought to check before leaving the country? It’s like a 5min call to see how much it will cost you. Ignorance isn’t an a good excuse.

    That being said, the fact that T-Mobile isn’t honoring the deal the CS rep gave isn’t good. Going back on your word is kinda below the belt and will be remembered long after the bill is paid off.

    • tsumeone says:

      There’s no way it costs providers that much to give you foreign data. The prices are clearly exorbitant, but they’re also legal. I agree – buying a local prepaid in whatever country you find yourself in is the way to go until our providers start charging reasonable rates internationally.

  13. dwfmba says:

    you were not aware of roaming charges? I’m calling bullsh*t on this. I’m all for posting stories about predatory roaming charges, bad wireless customer service, etc. Its one thing that you weren’t aware how MUCH it would be, its quite another when the customer is saying they didn’t know there would be a charge at all, you have to OPT-IN to Worldclass roaming…

  14. Invader Zim says:

    i Wonder how many minutes she used…..3?

  15. parabellum2000 says:

    This a good example of why you should record your conversations with customer service. They are most likely recording already, and if you agree to something they will be more than happy to keep a record of it forever. If she had a recording of the CSR saying that her bill would be reduced to $296.24 then she would have a leg to stand on. Without it, it might as well be her word against T-mobile.

    Also I don’t suggest doing it illegally, notify the CSR that you are recording the call. Since they are recording it at as well, you should be allowed.

    • dobgold says:

      the standard notification is “this call may be recorded…” My take is that they are giving permission for us to tape.

    • oakwood396 says:

      While TMOBILE announces that the call may be recorded for training purposes (and I call BS on that), if you tell tmobile that you may also record the call “for training purposes” they’ll hang up on you. You really need to live in a state where only one party permission is needed to record a call.

      • scottd34 says:

        The call center may be in a 2 party state so living in a 1 party state may not matter. My call center is in a 2 party state so ya to record calls when you call that call center requires you to get permission.

        Good luck since most companies that run call centers do not allow callers to record conversations.

        Most call centers are outsourced as well (there are tons of outsource call centers in the us, and many companies will use them.. so youll have say dell over here, and across the hall is hp, whirlpool and a team working some random recall).

    • SecretAgentWoman says:

      How does one go about recording the phone call?

  16. Wrayvin says:

    Not being aware of what you may be charged is not T-Mobile’s fault. I do blame the OP on that one. Read your contract, know what you are signing. BUT, if a representative of T-mobile works an arrangement with you, and you are quoted a price to pay the bill, I think T-Mobile should be bound to honor that arrangement. Otherwise, what’s the point of a representative if they do not have the authority to represent the company?

  17. Cosmo_Kramer says:

    I feel for the guy, but how many decades is it going to take before people realize that using your cell phone in a foreign country is going to be really expensive? And it’s not T-Mobile that makes the prices so high, the foreign phone company probably charged T-Mobile a ton for that usage.

  18. dogmaticman says:

    Something sounds off about this story…

    “[A] and she had assured me that this would be resolved if I paid the $296.14, but the only thing they were willing to do was remove the $163 fee for the internet service that I did not use nor have on my phone”

    If they are only willing to remove $163 fee…then the rest of the balance remains…and I don’t see how she doesn’t owe T-mobile $1200… CSRs don’t have the ability to adjust her fee (the manager has to step in), so I think the main problem here is the CSR improperly reported that she only owed $296 when she actually owed more.

  19. FatLynn says:

    I don’t have a feel for how much she used her phone. Was it one emergency call? Or was she chatting away from another country?

  20. thomwithanh says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: take out your @#$%ing SIM card when you go overseas. If you need to use your phone, buy a cheap local SIM card and use that instead

  21. ImaginaryD says:

    T-Mobile has to pay the foreign roaming partner a ridiculously high roaming fee so they likely do not have much leeway. On the small Caribbean island I grew up on the local telco openly listed profit from roaming arrangments as subsidizing local cellphone infrastructure costs.

  22. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    Taking advantage of her ignorance?? Not quite. She signed a contract agreeing to certain terms. THEY are not taking advantage of her ignorance, SHE is trying to use her ignorance to her advantage–to take advantage of T-Mobile. $1000+ bill is the price you pay for using your phone overseas in many cases. Not their fault OP neglected her own duty to find this out first.

  23. Russell's Tempest says:

    For those who want to avoid such problems when travelling, check ahead. It’s of no use to the person reporting it, but maybe for other people….

    In some countries, you can buy pay-as-you-go SIM cards with local numbers from phone companies and convenience stores, then throw away as you leave. You can also buy calling cards to make cheap overseas calls home. It’s a lot cheaper than trying to use your own number while abroad. You can do this in the Philippines and Thailand (I speak from experience) and probably some others.

    The downside in doing this is that you will be inundated with endless advertising and spam text messages as long as you have that number. The upside is that if your phone is stolen, you haven’t lost personal info, only the phone. Take an old one or buy second hand locally if you’re paranoid.


  24. maxhobbs says:

    I love when people say “it was an emergency” and use it as their right to do anything they want.

    “But officer, I was driving 120mph because it was an emergency”.

    If something is a true emergency, fine, do whatever you want, but realize there are CONSEQUENCES to your “emergency”.

    This is as silly as those people who complain an airline didn’t give them refunds or bend over backwards to adjust their ticket because some relative was sick/dying/dead.

    And if you can’t afford the $1,000 then how do you afford to take your grandkid to the Phillipines?

    And I would love to hear the details on the “emergency”, and what you were going to do, on the phone, halfway around the world, with this “emergency”.

    Obviously it wasn’t as big an emergency as she had to fly home that night as she would also complain how the airlines overcharged her to go home for her “emergency”.

    • LadyTL says:

      Yes, because even if one saves up to visit somewhere with people you still shouldn’t because OMG something bad might happen maybe to someone I know.

  25. Ajith Antony says:

    Tmobile is especially good at sending your phone text messages with very scary warnings when you are roaming using data. When I was in India roaming with t-mobile(before i got a local sim), I got three text messages like “Roaming data is $10/MB, are you sure you want to do this?” “Your international data roaming charges in this bill cycle have reached $50,” “Your international data roaming charges in this bill cycle have reached $100,” And they all included a shortcode to text back to disable the feature.

  26. Bionic Data Drop says:

    “I feel that it is unfair that they have taken advantage of my ignorance”

    I think I’ll drive down a rural street at 80mph because I’m unaware of any speed limit. I hope the officer doesn’t take advantage of my ignorance.

    Seriously, when has ignorance ever been a reasonable excuse?

  27. scottd34 says:

    I know that vzw posts their rates on their site in a very easy to find spot, plus they sent a free text as soon as the phone is turned on in a roaming area letting you know about rates, plus you get alerts starting at $25 in roaming costs.. plus phones are all set to have data roaming turned off from the factory. i cant imagine tmobile being much different.

  28. ironflange says:

    Too bad about the merger. AT&T and T-Mobile would have made such a cute couple.

  29. vivalakellye says:

    The Three Entities You Should Call before You Go Abroad:

    1) Your cell phone provider.
    2) Your bank.
    3) Your ISP.

  30. Dalsnsetters says:

    My folks had a trip to Europe scheduled for September, 2011 but had to cancel cuz dad caught pneumonia.

    As soon as they had firm dates and a schedule of where they were going to be, my mom (without any suggestions from me) called Verizon and asked what they could do. Verizon has a plan where they will ship you an international phone that will work wherever you are going. My folks had to pay some extra for this (I think it was about $50-100 for the two week period they were going to be gone), but it was sure worth it. They shipped my folks the phone about two weeks before they left and included in the box was a label for my parents to return it when they returned. Dad got pneumonia (it was a very scary time as dad is 78) and went into the hospital and the trip got cancelled. Mom called Verizon and explained the situation and Verizon refunded the full amount they paid and just told my mom to send the phone back.

    Seems for every horror story about a cell phone carrier, there are good ones sometimes.

    Having said that, the OP should have done what my mom did and called before leaving on the trip. I’m sure TMo doesn’t have the same type of plan VZW does but this was a vacation, not an emergency trip. She had time to do her research and make alternative plans if necessary. Yes, it sucks that the CSR told her one thing and a whole other thing happened, but that happens. At some point, there is a level of personal responsibility involved.

    Playing devil’s advocate: the data charges on a non-data plan/phone does make the other charges rather suspect.

  31. Tiffymonster says:

    I recently returned from a trip to Copenhagen and I was extremely careful with my cell phone usage. I turned everything off on my phone and used an app to make free wifi calls when I needed to. Extra charges $0 but I did call ATT and ask about international data plans etc. just in case.

    My friend who joined me on this trip didn’t bother shutting off her phone even though I handed her a sheet of paper with the billing rates and international plan options etc. She ended up with a bill of around $500. She freaked out and called ATT and they retroactively applied an international data plan to her account which dropped the bill to something like $50 or $75.

    I am assuming something similar probably happened with this lady and something didn’t work quite right and so the original charges stuck.

    I personally had no idea that ATT could or would retroactively apply an international data plan to your account after you screw up but it seemed to work for my friend, so it may not be that uncommon of an occurrence.

  32. ScottCh says:

    The people who keep blaming the OP are missing the room’s resident elephant. There is no justification for charging ANYONE a thousand dollars for making a few brief phone calls. International roaming fees are one ginormous scam, only exceeded by the ridiculous profits they make off of text messaging. Just one more “gotcha game” among the many. Consumers as cattle.

  33. Bravo says:

    I don’t believe the OP im sure the CSR said she would take $296 off the bill not $1000