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Is there redemption after data-roaming?
June 7, 2009 12:40 PM   Subscribe

I made a terrible mistake and racked up a big cell phone bill while roaming internationally (iphone - data roaming!). What should I do? Can I negotiate this down somehow?

I have an iphone. I keep international data roaming turned off by default. HOwever, while travelling to the US I have occasionally turned it on for a few minutes to check my email (i.e. just text). This has never resulted in anything truly disastrous, basically it's an extra $100 on my bill.

So last month while travelling in Europe, I also turned on the data roaming for a few minutes at a time. Some email checking, one google maps lookup, and one picture (from iphone cam, so low-res I assume) upload.

I started to worry a few days ago after seeing this question: http://ask.metafilter.com/123922/30000-per-gig-Really Sure enough, I just got my bill.My bill is ~$500 and I'm pretty freaked out.

I would like to call, apologize profusely and try to get them to lower the bill. Is this possible? What are my chances of success. Have you done it? What's my best bet for strategies?

Additional details:

1) I'm in Canada. My provider is Fido.
2) I'm set to auto-pay by credit card in 2 weeks. So I assume if they say no, they're just going to bill me.
3) I've been a customer for about 5 years, and always paid on time.
4) There is a data-roaming plan (which I don't have) which would have made this cheaper. Could I maybe say "Can I pay what I would have paid with that plan"? Would that work?
5) I do understand that this is completely my fault. I don't intend to do this again and keep negotiating it down. Believe me, this is that last time my iphone leaves the country!
6) I would be happy to talk this down to $150ish.
7) If I absolutely can't talk it down, I would like to have them distribute the costs over 4 months or something. Possible?

Anon because I don't want my friends to know I'm a total idiot who doesn't have the good sense to take their advice and leave the data roaming off.
posted by anonymous to Technology (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I had a similar problem with my landline back in the mid-90s when I had a long-distance relationship between England and Canada. I called the phone company and they let me pay the debt (hundreds of pounds) in three installments.

I'd be proactive if I were you, and call them now and ask for a payment plan. It can't hurt to ask!
posted by vickyverky at 12:44 PM on June 7, 2009


Back in the early iPhone days, I called AT&T to complain about a small data roaming charge -- it was like $20, but that was back before there was any way to turn off data roaming. They forgave it for me. I don't know what they'll do now, or how Fido will behave, but it can't hurt to ask.
posted by wyzewoman at 12:49 PM on June 7, 2009


My mother has occasionally changed her plan retroactively, to cover the past month. I think AT&T in the U.S. might allow you to do this once per year. It's definitely worth a try.
posted by insectosaurus at 1:08 PM on June 7, 2009


A couple years ago when I visited China my mom called me from her landline at home a couple times and then ended up with a bill of close to a $1000, I think! She called the phone company and, explaining that she knew it was completely her fault and just made a mistake, asked if there was anything they could do. It turned out they had some sort of special China calling plan, which she was able to buy and apply retroactively and then leave on for the three months I was there. It significantly reduced what she had to pay.

Not an iPhone, so not directly relevant to you, but it shows it can be done with other phone companies.
posted by losvedir at 1:10 PM on June 7, 2009


I don't think you're going to be able to get it reduced significantly. Your service provider has already paid the foreign service provider for the service you received. If your service provider now agrees to reduce your bill, then that means they're agreeing to pay it for you. Why would any company agree to do that?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:13 PM on June 7, 2009


Could I maybe say "Can I pay what I would have paid with that plan"? Would that work?

Possibly. I've had friends who have done this in the past with success - of course the key was that they were upgrading, going forward, to a more expensive plan. If it's worth it go you to spend an extra $X per month to avoid this $500 bill, then go for it.

If I absolutely can't talk it down, I would like to have them distribute the costs over 4 months or something. Possible?

Isn't this what credit cards are for?
posted by rkent at 1:15 PM on June 7, 2009


Your service provider has already paid the foreign service provider for the service you received. If your service provider now agrees to reduce your bill, then that means they're agreeing to pay it for you. Why would any company agree to do that?

Because you're assuming that the cell phone provider charges you the same as the foreign service provider, instead of a massive markup.
posted by smackfu at 1:22 PM on June 7, 2009


I happen to be talking to the original poster in person (apparently he or she doesn't care if I think that he or she is an idiot) and said OP gives the following clarification:

'it was definitely more than three email checks. Figure 10-15, but text only. ... (Yeah, and the pic upload I mention in the AskeMe, I realized after was on wireless not on the cell network)'

I am thinking: no way that adds up to $500. The actual bill says that there were twelve megabytes of data transfer. You have to be reading some substantial blocks of text to read twelve megs of webmail.

Is there a possibility that this some overseas carrier ripping off Fido? They dramatically inflate the data transfer figure, or maybe there's just a computer error somewhere, and then Fido has to pay them not knowing that the figure is wildly wrong?

Perhaps you should phone up the phone company and say 'this does not smell right; there is no way I transferred 12 megs of data. Can you find out where I was supposed to have done all this data transfer?'

For the record, the OP is neither me nor jb. Neither of us have an iphone on account of us being starving students.
posted by Dreadnought at 1:29 PM on June 7, 2009


I vote for asking them to give you the international data plan retroactively.

Data for comparison: During 12 days in Europe, I used 18 MB of data with twice-daily email checks (not a lot of email; all text), a little bit of surfing, and almost daily use of the built-in maps application. At $30/MB that would be $540. I kept an eye on my use during the trip (Settings-->General-->Usage) and noticed that the maps application was the big user.

I used AT&T's mid-sized international data plan, and if I had remembered to cancel it the minute I got back, I would have paid about $25. Instead, I paid for a full month of the plan--$60.
posted by PatoPata at 2:04 PM on June 7, 2009


I have heard of others having this problem. Everyone I know got screwed and had to pay.

I have an iPhone, and the phone is great - but it is so damn expensive, and AT&T just sucks. The iPhone is only as good as its weakest link, AT&T.

I actually regret the iPhone, and would discourage others from getting it. The phone is cool - but do you really want to become a total slave to AT&T, and get charged through the nose.

You have my sympathy.
posted by Flood at 2:45 PM on June 7, 2009


I actually regret the iPhone, and would discourage others from getting it. The phone is cool - but do you really want to become a total slave to AT&T, and get charged through the nose.

Flood - the OP's carrier is not AT&T.
posted by Pants! at 2:58 PM on June 7, 2009


A friend of mine did this too. She called up Rogers, and they just put her on the data plan that she should have been on to begin with, forgiving the giant roaming bill. Apparently this happens all the time and they seem to do the 'switch to a different plan' forgiveness method pretty quickly. (They'll probably make more money off of you in the long run if you switch plans too.)
posted by Kololo at 3:36 PM on June 7, 2009


Actually it sounds like you got off cheap! I remember a bunch of stories about many thousand dollar roaming charges.
posted by sammyo at 4:14 PM on June 7, 2009


Is there a possibility that this some overseas carrier ripping off Fido? They dramatically inflate the data transfer figure, or maybe there's just a computer error somewhere, and then Fido has to pay them not knowing that the figure is wildly wrong?

Or could very well be the other way around - Fido are making a large profit off international providers, regardless of their actual cost, as they know it's difficult to access/ most people won't access that information.

But wrt to the OP's actual question - you should have done your research before you travelled and found out what it would cost you, then you would know if Fido are ripping you off. Since you didn't... try phoning them and asking for a break but know you can only do this once, and do your research beforehand in future!
posted by goo at 5:43 PM on June 7, 2009


But wrt to the OP's actual question - you should have done your research before you travelled and found out what it would cost you, then you would know if Fido are ripping you off.

OP did look it up and the charge was 3 cents per kB. The bill specifically said that OP had downloaded 12 megs of data which, from OP's description of usage seems way too high for me. I asked OP if (s)he had downloaded any big attachments and (s)he said that (s)he hadn't.

Here's my reasoning: the gmail page, with pictures and all, weighs in at something like 100 kB, most of which is in cached images. Making allowances for 15 visits at several emails a visit, that's something like two megs. One map reading can't have been more than a meg or two either. This bill should have been something like $100 tops, which seems to be consistent with the OP's past experience. Something doesn't add up here. Or am I missing something?

Wow, the (s)he bit is getting really cumbersome... do you mind, OP, if I at least narrow your identity down to 50% of the population?
posted by Dreadnought at 6:55 PM on June 7, 2009


Thanks, Dreadnought - that additional info would have been really useful in the question. Based on what you've elaborated, it does sound as though the OP is being ripped off. Do they know what carrier they used while in Europe? Their phone should have told them. Check the carrier's websites or phone them for the charges and if it's far less than what Fido charged the OP, they have a good case to argue.
posted by goo at 7:20 PM on June 7, 2009


Further details: OP says that she wasn't actually using the gmail page at all, but the iPhone's gmail app, which is some kind of imap-style mail reader.
posted by Dreadnought at 7:27 PM on June 7, 2009


I've been able to argue down a bill before. Say you tried to call & get roaming on your way to the airport and you couldn't get through.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:21 AM on June 8, 2009


I've had a roaming bill reduced before (in the US). Just call and ask politely - tell them the useage and amount billed was much higher than you had anticipated based on past experience. It's probably good to mention that you have a long history with the company, and because of that you would really appreciate it if they could help you out. If the first rep can't, just say "are you really sure there's nothing you can do? perhaps you supervisor can help me?" I think if you're persistent but always polite you have a great chance of getting your bill reduced.
posted by robinpME at 10:35 AM on June 9, 2009


i know everyone hates AT&T, but they are the ONLY carrier that ever, ever let me do something retroactively - several times i didn't even request it and they asked if I wanted to do it.

this may have changed, though. but I was with them from 96-04.

and i realize the OP's carrier isn't AT&T.
posted by micawber at 10:41 AM on June 16, 2009


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