Help with $3500 broadband overage fee due to miscommunication
November 20, 2006 7:37 AM Subscribe
Tragic miscommunication leading to sudden $3500+ fee, for person with no savings and a strict day-to-day type budget. Just found out about this and have now finished hyperventilating enough to type. This is not an emergency timewise, but I'd truly be grateful for any advice you can give.
posted by anonymous to computers & internet (81 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I'm renting a room for 1 Sep - 30 Nov, in a non-U.S. city (I'm from the U.S.). My roommate (the leaseholder of the apt) has broadband wifi and helped me get my laptop onto his network the first day I was here. As it turns out, his account is limited to 1GB total transfer (up+down) per month. He never mentioned this. (He's a tech-savvy guy and in fact telecommutes most days.)
Being an American who has not been out of my country since before there even was broadband or wifi, I stupidly assumed his country (a thoroughly first-world, tech-filled country) was like mine in that broadband accounts are typically unlimited and a limited one is an anomaly that would be mentioned.
He now has a letter from his ISP for 7.7GB total of overage beyond his monthly 1GB limit. They have monthly data totals available, so he showed me he stayed under 1.3GB for all the previous months before I got here. Their fees per MB accelerate the more overage you've gotten, reaching more than USD 0.50 per _megabyte_.
So I have -- in the natural course of Skype, software updates, and sending/receiving original video & audio files (no bittorrent/etc.) -- made over $3500 worth of data transfer.
I have absolutely no way to pay this (and now that I am calming down I realize I have no *legal* obligation to pay this, since we never signed so much as a roommate contract, much less anything about data usage -- but I am still freaking out because this is $3500 that is not going to fall out of the sky). He is a professional who doesn't even usually rent out this room (because he doesn't need the money) and seems to spend extravagantly on travel/clothes/toiletries, but I would call $3500 still major for him or for anyone.
He seems fairly sure the ISP will not take pity on me, and there is definitely not a way to retroactively pay for an unlimited account. And he seems to be not realizing how impossibly huge an amount this is for me (more than 25% of my previous year's income for example -- it took me a very long time to save for this trip and it's not a tourist/vacation trip). He is not being antagonistic, and also is not yet being explicit that he expects me to pay this, but is calmly saying I should have asked him what his account limit was. (I agree with this, but as I said, I have never personally encountered non-unlimited broadband accounts and I have never dreamed of overage fees this high.)
I am still very emotional and not necessarily expressing myself well, so I realize it could be hard to tell my question is. But some useful responses could include: any ideas for communicating/negotiating with the ISP, which I think he would have to do (I think there's too much of a language barrier on my part); general response including the ethics question of owing the $3500 (assuming the ISP won't take pity on me); and any warnings of worst case scenarios (I certainly trust him not to harm me or try taking my stuff, but for example could this be connected to me in a way that would not let me return to the U.S. next month, or could he sue me if we don't come to an agreement, and if so could an international suit garnish what little money I make in the U.S., etc.). Thank you...