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.

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...
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (81 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, I feel so bad for you. I could very easily see myself in the same situation. I don't have any advice, but I hope you come to a good conclusion.

It would probably help to know which country this was in, because a local might be able to give you some advice on dealing with the ISP.
posted by empath at 7:44 AM on November 20, 2006

Wow, that sucks. I wish you weren't in this position, and I wish I had some concrete help for you.

All I can say is that you do owe this money; morally, it is your responsibility. You can probably convince yourself not to pay it, but that just means that your roommate will have to pay it, which isn't fair any way you tell the story. It might have been nice had he told you the download limit on the account, but the assumptions that you made about things being the same as in the US were ultimately (the bill indicates this) less justified than the assumption he made that you understood how things worked in his country.

Best of luck, honestly, that sucks.
posted by OmieWise at 7:46 AM on November 20, 2006

I disagree. If someone lets you borrow something, and then after you've used it tells you that there is a fee for using it that was undisclosed, this isn't your fault.

1. Stop using his broadband account. Stop now.
2. Discuss with him what would be reasonable payments (for you) and how this can be resolved. Be honest about the fact that he didn't tell you about the limit and the costs associated.
posted by ewkpates at 7:52 AM on November 20, 2006

Is your name on the bill? If not, it's not necessarily your responsibility. Whenever I was in a roommate situation and bills were in my name I always assumed that worst case scenario would be that my roommates wouldn't pay their share. I was prepared for that.

Yes, it was not smart on your end to assume things would work the same as they did back home. But, it was not smart for your roommate not to give you the details of his accounts. Also not smart that he did not have you sign a waiver of some sort to protect himself against such things.

I don't know how far you are going to get working with the billing company as you are not on the account.

Morally, yes, you should pay. But it sounds like paying that sum is impossible. Is there anyway you could split the cost 50/50 with roomie? Is that an option?

Good luck. Lousy situation.
posted by Sassyfras at 7:52 AM on November 20, 2006

woah... sound like a situation I could find myself in. First things first, find out if the ISP will take pity on your friend. If he's been a good customer, there's a chance they'll listen.

I think you should expect to pay, at minimum, somewhere close to 7-8 months worth of internet access since that's the margin by which you exceeded bandwidth. It's seems like the fairest number for both parties.

Unfortunately, because the bill is your friends, I don't think you have the "we'd rather get paid something than nothing" that typically works in situations like this [credit cards, cell phones, etc.].

Worst case scenario, where you have to pay everything and soon, is you could get a credit card stateside and make a giant PayPal payment. And then cry.
posted by trinarian at 7:54 AM on November 20, 2006

Well, legally, you could certainly skip out on the bill, and I suspect the internationality of the situation would make legal recourse difficult at best, but that is clearly not the ethical thing to do. Here's an offbeat suggestion: maybe it's not you? Possibilities:

1. He's taken advantage of the fact that he has a foreign tenant to do all of his bittorrenting now and stick you with the bill.

2. Someone has illicitly accessed his network at the same time you came around and they have caused all of this traffic (did he lower security to get you into the network?).

I know they are unlikely, but I think you've got to consider them for that amount of money. If they are ruled out, I think ask the guy to negotiate with the ISP as much as he can, and if/when that doesn't work, perhaps you could arrange a payment plan with him. He needs to be flexible here, because he DID have some responsibility to inform you of the fees.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:55 AM on November 20, 2006

1. I feel terrible for you.
2. It would really help to know what country you're in.
3. My generic advice might sound a little desperate, but here it is: You might try to see if there's someplace you can show up in person to explain to the ISP that, hey, you're a foreigner who doesn't understand the ways of this strange land, who screwed up big time, who isn't a jerk and who doesn't have the money to pay this. I know you said your roommate isn't optimistic about the chances of their taking pity on you, but I don't think that rules out trying the pity route!

And I say try to show up in person because it might be a lot harder to neg you if you're standing right there. Also, they can see that you're sincere. Try to choose your audience, too. Some people you can just tell that they're going to tell you to f off. Don't go up to that person's window.

I know you said there's a language barrier, too. I don't know what the chances are of finding someone who speaks English. If not, maybe someone can tag along and help you out?

Whether this tack will work or not depends on a lot of things, but I think it might be worth trying.
posted by veggieboy at 8:01 AM on November 20, 2006

He permitted you to use his connection and it was his responsibility to tell you what were the restrictions on its use. You have no legal or moral obligation to pay this bill, and nothing bad will happen if you don't.
posted by thirteenkiller at 8:01 AM on November 20, 2006

I don't think you have a legal obligation to pay it; frankly I don't even think you have a moral obligation to pay it. (If you went to another country, walked around on the sidewalk for a few hours, and then were told that there is a $1000/minute "walking on sidewalks" fee, and you now owe enough to keep your grandchildren in debt - would you be morally obligated to pay it?)

Your roommate should have foreseen your usage of the internet would incur charges. If he was already running 1.3Gb/month, 100% of your usage would be charged at overage rates. Since he failed to inform you of the charges, which he knew would occur with 100% probability, I don't see any moral fault on your part. The question is whether you knew or should have known of the charges, and I think the answer is no to both parts. He knew, he didn't tell, it's his fault.

You should accept no blame for not paying.

Nevertheless, you should probably try to resolve this with the ISP (out of common decency, an obligation of everyone at all times). ISPs often set up fairly ludicrous pricing schemes to discourage high usage, schemes which don't bear any relationship to their actual costs, and when a customer gets an incoming link from or something like that, the customer ends up with a ludicrous bill while the ISP's actual costs are only $5 higher than they usually are. In such cases, an appeal to fairness often works to get the charges massively reduced or eliminated.

And I agree with ewkpates that you should stop using his broadband account, effective today. Having been informed of the charges, you need to cease accruing them immediately.

I would also agree that there's some possibility that the guy is using you; that he did a fairly large part of that 7.7Gb himself.
posted by jellicle at 8:09 AM on November 20, 2006

Whatever else you might work out, I'm not sure it's reasonable that you pay the entire overage charge. Apparently, the roommate routinely overuses his account to the tune of .3GB a month. Knowing that, and knowing he was adding a second user to the account, he had to know the overages were likes to get much, much larger. Even if your use was as judicious as his, you'd still be looking at 2.6GB of transfer.

He has at least some culpability in this, and in all fairness, should be paying at least some of the overage charges, even if it's only half of the first 1.6GB of overage.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:11 AM on November 20, 2006

Rock Steady makes a good point. Is your roomie legit? Is he taking advantage? If you do end up paying the bill, are you paying it directly to the company or are you paying the sum to the roomie himself?

Here comes the paranoia: you mention that roomie does not typically take on other roommates. Is this true? Is he giving you a line to make you feel like you are beholden to his generosity for allowing you to live there? Perhaps this is a scam of his.
posted by Sassyfras at 8:12 AM on November 20, 2006

With phone companies, if you mess up and make more calls then you are supposed to because you thought "free evenings" started at 5:00 pm, you can usually call them and let them know, and they'll waive the charges. Or give you a break of some sort. You might be able to explain your ignorance, and have them give you a break as well.
posted by chunking express at 8:18 AM on November 20, 2006

I think you owe (most of) the money. I agree with OmieWise -- your assumptions about broadband came from the US, and your roommate should not bear the (total) responsibility for your ignorance. (BTW, this could completely happen to me.)

Aside: how is it that he telecommutes and uses his computer so much, but still uses so much less than you? I don't know much about the megabyte numbers -- was your usage above average? Does he use less than most people? Is it the difference between a US user and a non-US user?

In the context of cell phones, sometimes the company allows the person as part of the "take pity" settlement to backdate an upgrade to add more minutes. I agree with veggieboy to go in person to the ISP company, or get on the phone with a person who can translate for you, and beg. See if they will backdate an upgrade to cover the megabytes.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:20 AM on November 20, 2006

So the total usage for the month was 8.7 MB? If that's true I think you could at least make a case to your roommate that you owe less than the total 7.7 GB overage. The way I see it, since he knew about the limit he should have reduced his usage to .5 GB/month on the assumption that you and he were sharing the bandwidth equally. Thus of the 7.7 GB overage his share of the overage would be .8 GB (1.3 GB - .5 GB) and yours would now be 6.9 GB. At least that make it a little more manageable.

Is it possible that you could pay his monthly bill from now until your debt is paid off?

Personally, I think that he had as much a responsibility to inform you of the stipulations of use as you had to ask the same and I would certainly try to argue that because he didn't tell you he should be on the hook for half the bill with you.

If you chose to go the route of not paying anything I don't think there could be any legal ramifications (I'm not a lawyer so take this as you will), he let you use an internet connection for which he is contractually obligated to pay, and you had no signed agreement between the two of you stating the terms of use. Good luck!
posted by caflores22 at 8:21 AM on November 20, 2006

Is it possible that you could pay his monthly bill from now until your debt is paid off?

this seems to be a reasonable solution. you're broke but not destitute, apparently. work out a payment plan with the guy
posted by matteo at 8:28 AM on November 20, 2006

Yeah, I am starting to agree with the people who are suspicious of the roomie. I would make sure that everything is 100% on the up and up, even if that means contacting the isp yourself.
posted by empath at 8:28 AM on November 20, 2006

1. Start looking for a new place.
2. There is some moral responsibility for you to pay, and for him as well since he was already using 100% of the bandwidth when you arrived. Anything you used would of course be charged as extra. Duh. He should have told you. He sounds shady.
3. As it stands now, the ISP will only be interested in having the guy whose name is on the bill pay. They can't touch you, only your roommate. This would be a great case on people's court.
4. Once you've found a place (ASAP), move out and don't pay. Or, move out and pay some. Whatever you think is best.

That is how I would handle this situation given the information you posted above.
posted by maxpower at 8:28 AM on November 20, 2006

I'm not sure there's any huge reason to be suspicious, but I did overlook his habitual overuse of his account...since he was adding a user, he should have at least mentioned all of this to you.
posted by OmieWise at 8:30 AM on November 20, 2006

It sounds like he was not billed promptly. If this is the case, he should be able to negotiate the bill. He should certainly try, and he should also consider finding a new ISP. 1 GB / mo. is not very much these days.
posted by theora55 at 8:34 AM on November 20, 2006

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_.

Are you sure he didn't make the letter himself? Is it a legit bill? Man, I have trust issues.
posted by Sassyfras at 8:36 AM on November 20, 2006

Building on veggieboy's comment, I wonder if the best approach would be to appear in person at the ISP's office along with your roommate, pleading ignorance and seeking a compromise on the bill. Consider taking a trusted translator, since your roommate's interests may be different than your own.

Based on what you've written, it seems right for you to reimburse him some reasonable portion of whatever amount the ISP ultimately agrees to accept, but not all of it.
posted by Snerd at 8:37 AM on November 20, 2006

I repeat - your moral and legal responsibility for this is zero. By not mentioning the bandwidth limit as a term of your access to his network, he gave you permission to do exactly as you did. His mistake, his loss.
posted by thirteenkiller at 8:41 AM on November 20, 2006

I tend to agree with thirteenkiller and Sassyfras. You didn't agree to anything. Also, if the cost for overuse of the account is so exhorbitant, I find it highly suspect that he would 'forget' to mention it. Something sneaky going on.
posted by BorgLove at 8:58 AM on November 20, 2006

Assuming your roommate is not a scammer, when you skip out without paying the bill that you have no moral or legal responsibility to pay, he will be scared off from letting people who don't speak the language rent his spare room and use his overpriced internet connection... which is the best possible solution.

This is an absurd story that, one day, you will laugh at. For now, get yourself out of the situation as quickly and as cheaply as possible. Pay what you have agreed to pay for room rental. If paying a flat rate for internet was not mentioned when he set you up on the network, pay nothing. And keep reminding yourself that had he simply said that all internet use would have been at overage rates (which he knew from past use to be the case), you would have acted far differently than you did.

This sounds literally like a nightmare, and a crummy one. Good luck.
posted by Scram at 8:59 AM on November 20, 2006

If I added you to my cell phone plan and neglected to tell you that it was for 1000 minutes a month, and that I usually went over that by a couple hundred minutes by myself, it would be totally inappropriate to expect you to pay the 40 cent-per-minute penalty charge for all your usage.

The burden was his to inform you of the terms, so that you could agree to them (or not) before you began. At any point before now he could have let you know and you would have immediately stopped incurring charges.

Your panic at hearing the news may have resulted in a perception of responsibility to your host. You need to break this perception.

As the account is in his name, it is his effort that is going to bear fruit when negotiating with the company, not yours. Let him know that the charge may be able to be negotiated, but that is something that the account-holder must do. Because "he seems fairly sure" means nothing. So far he has preferred to ask you for money rather than explore for certain whether the fee is negotiable.

You will be very very sorry about this no matter what; it's an unfortunate situation. But you MUST NOT pay him the money unless it is your wish to do so.
posted by hermitosis at 9:01 AM on November 20, 2006

ClaudiaCenter: "I think you owe (most of) the money. I agree with OmieWise -- your assumptions about broadband came from the US, and your roommate should not bear the (total) responsibility for your ignorance. (BTW, this could completely happen to me.)"

I agree. It stinks but I think you should suck it up and pay it off however you can.

Hopefully the side benefit will be learning that the whole world doesn't work just like the US does. This curiosity about other places will come in handy in case you do encounter a country with sidewalk fees.
posted by loiseau at 9:03 AM on November 20, 2006

What Scram said.
posted by hermitosis at 9:05 AM on November 20, 2006

As others have said, I think he was negligent in not explaining to you the potential overages. 7.7gb is a lot of usage for 2 1/2 months and he probably just assumed you'd be doing normal surfing, email, etc. and not necessarily sending video files. However, if I was using someone's broadband, I wouldn't think to ask about a limit (and I'm not in the US) so I don't really think you did anything wrong here.

If it was me, I would probably offer to pay a small portion of that money back to him (maybe $500) in small installments. That would be a good faith offer on my part for the miscommunication that he was mostly responsible for.
posted by gfrobe at 9:07 AM on November 20, 2006

Even if you were not using it to transfer multimedia files, you'd still be going over and having to pay the fee.

I don't know how customer service is in the country you're in, but I agree with the others about having him (not you, it is his account) go to the ISP and explain the situation. Maybe they can get the bill reduced. He will feel burned if you don't pay, probably angry at himself and at you.

You have to figure out if paying this is less trouble than finding a new roommate.

I can't believe he was going over already and let you use the Internet. An incredibly dick thing to do. How do you know he wasn't using the Internet heavily knowing that he'd come back and stick the bill with you?\

Something really sounds off here, either this guy is stupid or trying to scam you. I don't think there is an easy way out of this, but if the ISP is big enough it will probably just make you pay taxes or associated fees. Even if it is $500 that's quite a drop, and then each of you can pay $250 and forget about the whole mess. And get a new roommate.
posted by geoff. at 9:18 AM on November 20, 2006

You owe the money, don't buy this bullshit about sidewalk fees. Just because you didn't know- and didn't ask - doesn't mean you shouldn't pay. It's more like getting in a taxi, joyriding all over the city, and expecting to pay for a bus ride. Sorry, cap'n.

I'm in a country with a similar internet situation and little pity for Americans. With a friend/ally, you might be able to go to the ISP personally and get the charges knocked down. Not trying this is a complete failure on your part. Don't play up the fact that you're a foreigner, especially don't mention that you're American.

If you decide to skip, you need to make it sudden, and complete. I recently moved out of a flat in two chunks, owing nothing- in fact, having paid an extra week's rent which I was not reimbursed for. Between the first and second moves a lot of my books and some of my posessions just 'disappeared'... A damned shame that my Austrian roommate decided to rip me off that way. But you should expect the same, especially considering that you're considering leaving this guy with the bill.
posted by fake at 9:20 AM on November 20, 2006

"Your panic at hearing the news may have resulted in a perception of responsibility to your host. You need to break this perception."

This is hugely important right now.
I am in the group that believes this is a total scam. Like several have already said...if he was already going OVER his limit every month what was he expecting to happen once you started using it?

"He seems fairly sure the ISP will not take pity on me..."
Why is this?
"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)"

this all sounds ripe for a scamming.
I might be biased as I have experienced my own shady dealings in europe. How would you deal with this back in the states? I think maybe the language issue, feeling like a guest, worried about losing the roof over your head has you being overly willing to accept whatever this guy is telling you.

But I wouldn't be so quick to beleive it.

do you have any OTHER friends there? not connected to this guy? native speakers? tell him you would like a copy of the bill and would like to show it to another friend of yours.
posted by darkpony at 9:29 AM on November 20, 2006

If you didn't know an overage fee existed, it was his responsibility to tell you about one. I would still try to work something out (the ISP will almost certainly work with you on this, maybe you could pay a reduced amount), but when push comes to shove, he's the landlord, you're the tenant, and it's his responsibility to tell you about the provisions of living under his roof.
posted by ukdanae at 9:30 AM on November 20, 2006

It's more like getting in a taxi, joyriding all over the city, and expecting to pay for a bus ride.

If you insist on stupid analogies: No, it's more like getting in your friend's car, doing some errands, and finding out when you got home that it's actually a $10-per-mile limousine service and he forgot to tell you that when you started out.
posted by mendel at 9:37 AM on November 20, 2006

also how did he imagine the usage would get split? he would use the initial 1.0 GB and you would be paying all the overage?

lets say you split it 50/50 (the 1GB limit) and he was using 1.3 GB per month he would still be responsible for .7 overage per month. times 3 months thats 2.1 GB. Of the 7.7GB overage I can't see how at LEAST about a quarter of that isn't all his.

I still think the whole thing is a scam here... but at the very LEAST 2.1GB of that 3500$ overage is his responsibility.
posted by darkpony at 9:42 AM on November 20, 2006

...getting in your friend's car..

At his invitation, even!
posted by thirteenkiller at 9:43 AM on November 20, 2006

What country is this? I'm a bit incredulous about those charges. Have you checked them against the ISP's website?
posted by bonaldi at 9:45 AM on November 20, 2006

The ISP will be highly negotiable. There have been cases around the world where courts have ruled that insufficient notice was given to the consumer that their usage was drastically over the allowable limit. Talk to a consumer advocate agency first and see what they believe can be done. You might very well get away with only paying a few hundred dollars.

Don't listen to the people above saying you have no legal liability and that it's your roommate's problem. That is clearly false.
posted by zaebiz at 9:54 AM on November 20, 2006

Wow, tough situation. I agree on finding a new place ASAP. No matter how this plays out, your current living situation will be pretty stressful. Either you're beholden to the guy for monies in repayment or you're living with some dude that thinks you owe him money. Both are not fun.

Contact your embassy with a copy of the bill. They should be able to help you out, both with the bill and with tenant/landlord law for your area.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:57 AM on November 20, 2006

Don't listen to the people above saying you have no legal liability and that it's your roommate's problem. That is clearly false.

It's not false. You are not responsible for this charge. It's his account and he let you use it.
posted by thirteenkiller at 10:05 AM on November 20, 2006

Don't listen to the people above saying you have no legal liability and that it's your roommate's problem. That is clearly false.

Did they have a verbal or written agreement about what to do with costs? Did he sign anything with the ISP? Where is the contract stipulating he must pay? Unless the laws are wacky in this country he has no legal obligation.

We have no proof that he actually used 7GB-1.3 except that his roommate over time, did not use that much. How do we know that his roommate totally didn't pull the wool over his eyes and used the new situation to download a few movies and albums he was wanting? We don't. You can't just charge people what you like after the fact. Anonymous' contract was with the roommate, the roommate has a separate contract with the ISP.
posted by geoff. at 10:09 AM on November 20, 2006

In my US-only experience with telcos and ISPs they're always more than happy to figure out a payment plan or something with things like this. I'd tell your friend that you'll happily pay half the overage, but you'd like to negotiate some kind of payment plan where you pay $X a month until it's all paid off. Also, get a copy of the statements from the ISP, just for your records. If possible, write this all down semi-formally: I agree to pay the total $Y in payments of $X monthly over a period of Z months, etc.
posted by Skorgu at 10:26 AM on November 20, 2006

I find it hard to believe that people are actually advising this person to pay. Scams exist. There's a high chance that this is one (the more I think about it, the more it seems likely). "Taking" stupid Americans is high sport in many countries around the world. (This sounds a bit like the restaurant scam, where an accomplice drags a tourist into a crappy restaurant with no prices, they eat dinner, and the meal turns out to have been many hundreds of dollars - and look, here's Luigi and Guido to make sure you pay right now.)

The roommate paid overage charges every single month, on his own, and is clearly well aware of the fees. Yet he neglected to mention this fact? And the roommate never checks the data usage on his own to raise the alarm, even though he's apparently quite familiar with checking it? And somehow the monthly bill doesn't come until 2.5 months after you've arrived? Very convenient. Perhaps this professional doesn't need the money because the last guy he scammed gave him $3500. Perhaps the roommate's cousin runs the "ISP".

Truth: scams are designed to play on your emotions: guilt or greed being the two most common ones. You must dissociate yourself from these emotions to detect the scam.
posted by jellicle at 10:46 AM on November 20, 2006

Lets set the issue of scam aside for a moment as this is easily determined. Assuming no scam is operative here:

You both made assumptions. You that all ISPs are the same and he that you would use just a little bandwidth.
His assumption is by far bigger of the two with regard to proximate cause, IMO.

Does your verbal rent agreement include all other utilities? (gas water & electricity) If so, then your assuming its a flat rate plan is arguably moot (or in the alternative, understandable) since its just another included utility. Having failed to explain the intricacies of those rate plans as well, he in effect assum the costs as landlord, whatever they might be.
(the above analysis uses American legal logic which might not necessarilly be the same in the country ewhere this took place)
posted by Fupped Duck at 10:58 AM on November 20, 2006

Do a little digging on the ISP and its charges.


I live in New Zealand, where data rates are higher than virtually anywhere in the western world. Nonetheless, if I go over my allowance by 6 GB, it wouldn't even come to $100, let alone thousands. I am very curious as to which first world country has such high rates for overage. The regime you describe is extremely punitive.

I think you both screwed up here - he should have said, and you should have asked.

Where I live the local telco has been known to take pity on people whose children (for example) racked up huge charges without their knowledge, or offer credit, so to the extent that you feel responsible I would investigate those options.

Some people here are suggesting you have no legal liability. How do they know what the law is in this country? There will likely be a some service locally that gives legal advice cheaply to people in need - find it, and ask there. Or use a sock puppet to post here which country you are in, so a Mefite with local knowledge can help you. You can email me if you like and I will post your info here.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:00 AM on November 20, 2006

Oh yeah: if you can tell us which country you're in and the ISP, then we can verify the claim about the overage charges.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:04 AM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

What jellicle said about playing on emotions is true and obviously already happening. The OP is being an apologist already, if you read the statements he makes about his roommate and this bill. The way to find out about this charge is pretty simple: both of you call the ISP, together, or look at the account online, together. Quite frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if the problem somehow disappeared just as this conversation was about to happen.

Besides, $3500 is ludicrous for that much bandwidth. Is this guy running an internet cafe or something? You have every right to haggle about this, once you've determined beyond a doubt that it's true. And needless to say, if you do pay, I hope your check or credit card goes directly to the ISP, with no stops in your roommate's account.
posted by raconteur at 11:07 AM on November 20, 2006

about everybody who commented make good points.

if you think he is a scammer (it doesn't sound like it to me), as fake suggested, skip in a sudden and complete fashion (option 1).

if you don't think he's a scammer, then i think you should explain this guy, in a non-hostile but assertive way, that he bears part of the responsibility for the high price (both usage and not informing you about the charges). you have pretty strong arguments in the comments above to help you. it should become clear to him that you won't pay the $3500. also, make it clear to him that, no matter how much you pay, it is going to have to be in installments - you simply have no money. these give him incentive to call the isp and negotiate a lower bill.
- if he is not willing to do this and expects you to pay the whole thing, then he is not being reasonable. even though i think you should pay "something," under this circumstance i would consider moving out (back to option 1 above)
- if he makes the call and knocks the bill down, try to pay some/half of it, perhaps in installments (option 2).

before you start talking to him, you should have two things:
1) decide on a total amount you're willing to pay (in installments or not) - don't reveal this until you hear from the isp
2) keep your passport+return ticket+important etc safe.

good luck ...
posted by eebs at 11:10 AM on November 20, 2006

1. That's like $546.87 per gig of transfer over his usual amount. I'm not saying it's a scam per se, but that is insane.

2. What your legal responsibilities are depend on where you are re: Verbal contracts, etc.

3. Morally you have to decide on your own what to do.

4. The Kicker: A dude who is "tech savvy" set you up on his wifi account, was also using the account at the same time, regularly goes over the bandwidth limit every month by .3 of a gig anyway AND DIDN'T TELL YOU BANDWIDTH WAS METERED?

Here's what I would say: "Crap man that is a sucky problem right there, can I ask why you didn't tell me that you live in a country where you can be charged up to and beyond $500 per gig of transfer and you didn't tell me the instant you met me -if only as a point of crazy trivia about the strange ways of your native land? I have to say that I can't afford to pay that much for bandwidth and since you didn't tell me about it when you set me up I'm not going to pay that much for bandwidth. Please call your ISP and explain the situation, maybe they can help you."
posted by Divine_Wino at 11:22 AM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

Can you check with other ISPs in this country to find out of the charges are in line with the norm? $3500 for 7 gigs of data seems illogically high. I'm with the people who think this is a bit fishy. If he has to pay overage every month for the past several months, he must have known that adding another user to his account will cost him *something*. Any reasonable person would inform you of this to keep costs low. You should ask him if the local utility company charges overage fees for water, too.
posted by reformedjerk at 11:26 AM on November 20, 2006

D. Wino has it. I can't see any point in your story where these charges became your problem. Personally, I'd tell the roommate, "OK, we're going to have to find a way to figure this situation out, because I don't have $3500 and I won't anytime soon," then wait for his response.

The key is maintaining the attitude that A) this is not your problem, because after Nov 30 you won't have to give this situation a second thought, B) you're willing to help him out because you're nice like that and you did use his broadband, and C) your help will not include money, not only because you can't afford it, but because his negligence caused the problem. Lay it out so he totally understands your stance, and then the ball's in his court.
posted by TG_Plackenfatz at 12:03 PM on November 20, 2006

Is your broadband connection through a cellphone provider? The only rates I could find that come close are similar to Vodafone New Zealand 3G (in this case, $59.95 for 1gb + $.50/mb thereafter -- but these prices are in NZ dollars)
posted by fourstar at 12:06 PM on November 20, 2006

Something strikes me odd, well aside from the ~$600/gb overage charge and it might be nothing of course... but a professional who doesn't need the money and never has rented out a room before... why would he bother? And then be more than eager to help you onto the wifi the first day you were there?

I may be ridiculously overly suspicious, but I sort of wonder if that aspect plays into it. Maybe he did get in some trouble with his ISP bill (or something else) and figured he'd take in a boarder and rope them into the payment. I have to think regularly telecommuting to the office would rack up the 1.3GB worth of space alone, nevermind if he did personal email/browsing/downloading/whatever on his own time.
posted by jerseygirl at 12:29 PM on November 20, 2006

Following the reasoning, I agree 100% will jellico. Something adds up not.

Get the data (i.e., the bill), make an appt with the ISP, go and negotiate. That will flush out the reality of the situation PDQ.

How do you know the extra GB are YOUR GB? Sounds a lot like a setup to get you to come in and do a few extra GB of downloading whilst he does a lot more than he usually does.

Before you solve any problem, you have to know the REAL state of nature... what is truly happening. Don't jump to conclusions about what to do about this "problem" until you conclusively establish the facts surrounding it. I'd steer clear of suggesting subterfuge and play along with him, while persistently pursuing the truth.

Something stinks mightily from what you've related.
posted by FauxScot at 12:53 PM on November 20, 2006

"He's only a foreigner, you will be out of there shortly, stiff him". It really is impossible to understand why other people distrust and dislike Americans, isn't it?

At the same time, this story does seem a little odd, and I would start by going to the ISP's website and checking the tariff. And where the heck are you that they bill only every three months? Most places don't trust computer people that much, but I guess this could be a combined phone-and-broadband deal sticking with phone company billing practices. Ask your other contacts about their experiences.

If the bill is on the level, then it is obviously his bad too. He should have changed to a different scheme when he added you to the household. I would lean on him to go to the ISP with a story of his crazy American friend who didn't know how things worked. (But if you are suspicious, I agree with FauxScot to take the bill in yourself and wave it around.)

But basically, if an unexpected bill has to be met, I don't see how you can see it as anything other than your responsibility. He rented you a room, and he should end up making a negative amount on the whole deal? I would think he can fairly see earning only $14000 a year in the US as being a lifestyle choice and not a reason for stiffing him, unless you are clearly disabled or whatever. It would help to know the average earnings where you are -- "poor" westerners can seem very rich to others, even ones living comfortably to our eyes but well aware that a disaster could wipe them out. They know how knife-edge their finances are, and assume that we have back-up in depth, and by their standards we usually do. But you may be somewhere with a history of settled prosperity, in which case you can perhaps do more negotiation over splitting the bill.

This is all part of the fun (and educational value) of a trip abroad. The chances of being ripped off, and the value of leaving a good impression even at some personal cost.

Good luck with finding a manageable solution!
posted by Idcoytco at 1:39 PM on November 20, 2006

"He's only a foreigner, you will be out of there shortly, stiff him". It really is impossible to understand why other people distrust and dislike Americans, isn't it?

Plenty of people like Americans just fine, and nobody's suggesting OP stiff the guy just because he's foreign.

OP should stiff the guy because OP owes the guy nothing. Nationality really has nothing to do with it.
posted by thirteenkiller at 1:54 PM on November 20, 2006

I also do not live in the US (Spain) and I would also be stunned if my roommate had a 'pay by megabyte' broadband deal. I would be even more stunned if he somehow forgot to mention it. How freaking dangerous would that kind of deal be with broadband? The fact that he is "calmly" telling you that you should have asked him about account restrictions is totally absurd. In my opinion he is wholly responsible for not informing you of those crazy rates.

Just to reiterate what others have correctly said, of course there is no legal responsibility- although there may be a perceived moral obligation.

Before jumping to the conclusion that you are being scammed (although something does smell fishy), you need to feed the hive mind more information. Why on earth did you not include the name of the country, city and the name of the ISP in your question? With that information it shouldn't be hard for us to at least figure out if the guy is scamming you or not. Please ask the admins to give us more information via proxy.

As things stand, you are scheduled to move out in 10 days anyway (Nov 30), perhaps you should consider leaving early. Even if this is not a scam, I would move on with little remorse, if you feel the moral obligation to pay him something, give him what you can afford (evidently, not much), he can't expect blood from a stone especially because it is his fuck up. If he is not a scammer, let it serve as a lesson learned.
posted by sic at 2:02 PM on November 20, 2006

Own up to it and pay the bill, negotiate with the ISP if you have to. I can't believe other mefites are telling you to stick him with the bill.

He was nice enough to pay for internet access that he wasn't using.

Your "borrowed" the internet access, you shouldn't be transferring 2 gigs (2months) + 7.7 gigs (overage) through normal use.

Borrow means light usage, ie. web browsing, e-mailing, uploading a few pictures. Not 5 gigs a month.
posted by mphuie at 2:29 PM on November 20, 2006

After reading the entire thread I agree that something seems amiss, and I apologize for the half-assed analogy, but that thing-that-is-amiss could be simply the info the poster has given us.

I just wanted to comment on this:

"I certainly trust him not to harm me or try taking my stuff"

You really shouldn't make that assumption. Seriously, the Austrian guy that ripped off my books (and duffel bag, now that I think about it) was a "really cool guy" and seemed "trustworthy" until I left the place. I am so tempted to link to his online business networking profiles, where he seems all straight+narrow and on the up&up.

Keep all critical documents on you at all times, don't leave money or cards at home, and again, if you're gonna split, do it all in one go, when he's not there and doesn't expect it. Sooner is better.
posted by fake at 2:36 PM on November 20, 2006

For those who still feel the OP has a moral obligation to pay the overage bill (setting aside the possibility that this is a scam), imagine the same question as asked by the leaseholder:
Dear AskMefi,

I took in a boarder three months ago and offered to share my wifi connection with him. I did not mention that my ISP charges ridiculous amounts of money for bandwidth overages, nor that these fees increase exponentially as bandwidth limits are exceeded, nor that I would expect him to pay these overage fees. I assumed he knew that such fees existed and that he would be responsible for paying them and that if he didn't know, he would at least be smart enough to ask me if they might exist.

Anyway, after three months my bill shows that he has accumulated $3500 in overage fees and when I asked him to pay up he balked, claiming that he had no idea that there was any limit to his web access or that he would have to pay any fees beyond what we initially agreed upon.

So what do I do now?
I'm fairly certain the chorus would be "if you expected him to pay overage fees, you should have told him before you let him share your wifi" and not "well, it was the guy's job to realize there might be fees and to ask you about them, so it's all his fault."

If any of you had a pay-per-megabyte deal with your internet connection, would you share it with anybody without first carefully explaining how you expect to be compensated?

Oh--I failed to mention that anyone who reads one of my comments must send me a check for $5 to cover my handling fee. If you didn't know that you would be charged for reading this comment, you should have asked before you started.

posted by turaho at 2:48 PM on November 20, 2006

I actually kind of think this might be a scam as well. $3500 sounds like a stupid amount of money to charge for going over your broadband. Make sure it's not a scam before you do anything.
posted by chunking express at 3:00 PM on November 20, 2006

turaho has the best answer to this question.

Even if you had a previous relationship with the person, don't rule out it being a scam. I had a roommate who I trusted turn out not to be very worthy of that trust.

Lesson learned.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 3:19 PM on November 20, 2006

I sometimes download more than that in a single day... wow.

I am in the camp that says you don't have a single obligation. If I was in the place of your roommate, I would not expect reimbursement if we had no pre-existing agreement.

If this roommate insists on being paid, ignore. It was his fault. Some bridges need to be burned, I'm afraid. If he is a nice guy, maybe consider working something out, but only if you really value this person as a friend.
posted by clord at 3:41 PM on November 20, 2006

For those who still feel the OP has a moral obligation to pay the overage bill

Well, I think I have a moral obligation to pay any debts I legitimately incur, whether or not I thought to ask about the price in advance. One thing that would make the difference is if there was no discussion of paying for broadband at all. If he just offered me access to his connection with no preceding "You'll be responsible for half of heat, electricity, cable and broadband" discussion then I would assume that it was gratis or included in the rent and I would not feel obligated to pay.

I do think it is a scam, though, and I would not feel morally obligated to pay in that situation, obvs.
posted by Rock Steady at 3:46 PM on November 20, 2006

After reading this whole thread, it seems more and more like a scam. Listen to Jellicle, this is his responsibility and i dont think the debt even exists. If theres more information, definitely post by proxy so we can have more to go on. But with the info you provided, this just sounds too scammy to ignore.
posted by ZackTM at 3:56 PM on November 20, 2006


Did he tell you that the bill was $3500, or did he show you a bill that said $3500? Also, was the bill in US dollars, or the local currency.

I can't help to think that someone, somewhere, did a math mistake in translating the bill into US dollars.
posted by spinifex23 at 4:00 PM on November 20, 2006

I'd like to second robocop's suggestion: Contact the local US Embassy. They can give you specific information about the ISPs in that country, typical rates, and help you if this is fraud.

I would also suggest that when talking with them, you do not mention either your ability to pay or your roommate's (perceived) ability to pay. This is actually irrelevant - you are not free from bills simply because you cannot afford them. I would suggest that you stick with facts that are relevant: Are the charges correct, are they yours, and can you work out a deal (or can the Embassy help you work out a deal) with the ISP and/or roommate.
posted by Houstonian at 4:17 PM on November 20, 2006

doesn't sound you have a legal obligation to pay. sounds like you might have a moral obligation to pay some. doesn't sound like you have a moral obligation to pay the whole sum. so, if that's how you feel about it, roughly, i would do this:
1) to be sure, ascertain independently of your flatmate the bill and all its details; even if he's an apparently 'nice guy' he could be scamming you. then, if the bill is indeed legit:
2) point out that he most certainly should have informed you there would be overage charges and that he bears part of he responsibility for the situation. then offer him half the overage cost. if he demurs, tell him you have no legal obligaqtion to pay anything and this is not only a generous good faith offer but the only one he's going to get. if he threatens, tell him you are moving out, you'll pay him after you've left, and, if you suffer any loss (he steals or damages something, eg) you deduct it from what you pay him
posted by londongeezer at 5:30 PM on November 20, 2006

Assuming that this isn't a scam, you definitely have the moral responsibility to pay for a very large portion of this. I'm an American living abroad and I've run into surprises in differences in business customs and it sucks. Both parties can act in good faith, but they have different underlying assumptions. But at the end of the day, you're in his country and it's his assumptions which are valid.

For those people saying that he should of told you that there were overage charges, maybe in his country it's inconceivable that anyone would download that much. Imagine you have a guest staying in your house and he asks if he can take some food out of the fridge--you respond, "help yourself" and come home to find out that he's sold the contents of your fridge and freezer for a profit: would you feel scammed? I would. Help yourself, but within reasonable limits. In his country, maybe anything over 0.2 gb would be considered ridiculously unreasonable.

That said, you should definitely make sure it's not a scam. But if it's not, it's your responsibility.
posted by limagringo at 6:49 PM on November 20, 2006

I would suggest that you stick with facts that are relevant: Are the charges correct, are they yours, and can you work out a deal (or can the Embassy help you work out a deal) with the ISP and/or roommate.

The embassy's not going to be any help except maybe being able to give you a list of translators you can hire to help you communicate with the various parties.

In his country, maybe anything over 0.2 gb would be considered ridiculously unreasonable.

Not if if the other guy regularly goes over 1 gb every month.

come home to find out that he's sold the contents of your fridge and freezer for a profit

Wrong. This is like giving an unsuspecting visitor a bill for all of the drinks/snacks he's consumed from said fridge. And at minibar prices.

Don't give the guy any money unless you know everything's legit. Then split it with him.
posted by jaysus chris at 7:37 PM on November 20, 2006

Jaysus, do you know, or do you think, that the US Embassy cannot help?

Since we don't know where he is, I checked a few of embassy websites. The one in Chennai suggests you contact them (specifically, the Consulate) if you have problems with fraud, the legal system, financial emergencies... heck, even if you need a notary.

The one in Riyadh only says, "How may we be of service to American citizens in Saudi Arabia?"

The one in Prague seems the most limiting, based only on their text on their website... "Consular officers cannot act as travel agents, banks, lawyers, investigators, or law enforcement officers. They may not find employment, obtain residence or driving permits, act as interpreters, search for missing luggage, or settle disputes with hotel managers. They can, however, tell you how to get help on these and other matters."

At a minimum, he would be standing in front of an American citizen (who is familiar with our methods of paying for bandwidth), who may share - at a minimum, in an unofficial capacity - whether or not this seems on the up-and-up.

Have you had experiences at embassies that make you think they can be of no help? Since we don't know where he is, perhaps it would be useful for him to know which embassies you've found unhelpful?
posted by Houstonian at 8:30 PM on November 20, 2006

1. There can be no doubt that it's a scam. It's either your roommate scamming you (probable) or the company scamming your roommate (less probable).

2. If your roommate isn't scamming you (which he is), then he at least knew before you ever came on board that he was going to rack up monster overcharges. He didn't tell you. He gets to pay all of them.

3. If he didn't tell you beforehand that you'd be responsible for paying your share of the bill, why would you be morally/ethically/etc responsible for paying any of the bill?

4. You don't have the money. Period. Unless you're going to get put in jail or have your fingers cut off by the [insert country here] mob, don't go into debt to pay. That's just stupid. Ruin your financial life for years to come because some random roommate either scammed you or just made you feel guilty? Please. It's not worth it.

5. Nobody here can tell you anything about the legal issues, lawyer or not, since we don't know where you are. Assume that U.S. contract law doesn't apply.

6. Yes, many people outside the U.S. hate Americans. There are plenty of good reasons to. But that's irrelevant here. Many people outside the U.S. also take great pains to scam Americans because Americans are gullible and perceived to be wealthy. That's what's quite clearly happening here. Don't feed the stereotype of American as easy target.

7. If we knew what country you're in and it was one of a select group of countries, there are some of us who would advise you to take everything that's dear to you that you can carry in one trip and get a hotel far from where you are, and hide until your plane leaves. But since we don't know what country you're in, we can't advise you on that, since it might be a really, really bad idea.

8. Don't do anything that will get you in trouble with the law, stuck in the country, or beat up.

9. It's a scam.

10. It is a scam.
posted by JekPorkins at 9:20 PM on November 20, 2006

I personally wouldn't pay this. I wouldn't even think about paying it. You've been there since Sept 1, and now, not 9 days before you are meant to leave, he is busting out a $3500 "Oh yeah, by the way" internet fee on you? No way would I pay it. Dude knew full well that he regularly went over his allotment ANYWAY. His FIRST responsibility when putting you on his wifi was to tell you that it's a limited bandwidth account. The fact that he didn't tell you about it until after the fact smacks of either idiocy, or sneakiness, neither of which are your problem. Offer to help him fix the problem, but tell him that it's not your fault that he never told you about it.
posted by antifuse at 2:19 AM on November 21, 2006

Jaysus, do you know, or do you think, that the US Embassy cannot help?

Perhaps I overstated my case. Many people assume the embassy staff is the modern day equivalent of the cavalry, just waiting to sweep in and fix any problems an American abroad might get himself into. It's not. You're right that talking to an American citizen who happens to be embassy staff could very well be helpful in this situation and would probably make the trip to the embassy worthwhile even without the possibility of official help. In the end, the embassy is going to point the OP to local authorities/resources, but they may be helpful in doing so.
posted by jaysus chris at 2:22 AM on November 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


Thank you SO much to everyone who's responding. Seeing all the
responses really makes me feel less alone. I'll try to answer your
questions clearly but concisely:

You're very right that I should find an American consulate and talk
to them. I don't know if the ISP will talk to me (as a random guy
who is legally unconnected to this account from their point of view)
in addition to the roommate, but I will definitely propose a three-
person meeting.

Yes, utilities and wifi are included in my flat rent, according to
our emails prior to my arrival here, and we have no paper agreement
whatsoever about anything (and yes that is Lesson Learned #237
here). I gave one flat amount to my roommate (paid at the beginning
of my stay). On my first day he told me a certain utility is
expensive for him, so I've been very careful about using that
utility. He carefully pointed out a number of things in the
apartment I could and couldn't use. He said nothing about internet
being limited or overage being unusually expensive.

I've seen enough to reasonably assume this is not globally a scam,
although there are some points of concern. I've seen, reported on
the ISP's own site, the up and down transfer amounts for each day of
the current month (November), plus the total up+down amount for each
of the 6 months before that. For the months before I arrived here,
the *highest* monthly transfer was a little over 1.3GB and the global
average otherwise was about 900MB. This c. 900MB/mo average suggests
to me that he was keeping track of his bandwidth, but he claims he's
never paid attention to it until now. I've also seen the overage-fee
schedule on the ISP's site (looking at it separately, on my own, as
opposed to the looking at the transfer reports which I necessarily
had to do along with him). So the overage fees may be insane, but
they're legit. This is not a monopoly ISP, but it is the country's
oldest and most prominent. (Sadly, I don't want to name the country
here because trying to stay anonymous is more important to me than
being able to specifically discuss the ISP.)

This could be globally a scam if he made fake web pages to show me,
listing those transfer amounts (and they would need to be based on
his own capture of real up and down transfer, since they correctly
show upload spikes on a few individual days where I would expect
them)... but if that were the case, I think he definitely would have
chosen lower numbers for the prior-to-me months. And it's a well-
known, countrywide telecom/ISP, so he couldn't have made up their
entire site and fee-policy pages. :) I also think it's not likely to
be a case of neighbor intrusion -- it's quite likely that I've used
4-5GB on my own, and his wifi has a decent password (16 random
characters) and a poor range. I also feel there are many other ways
he could have scammed me more cleanly and definitively if he'd wanted
to scam me.

One final point is that the overage fees only jump dramatically once
you enter your *second* GB of overage. Possibly he was hoping I
would be about the same usage as him, and therefore together we would
have less than 1GB of overage (costing c. USD $90) each month. If
this is true, it doesn't answer why he didn't just tell me (since he
clearly is not shy about telling me specifics of all the other limits
on what I could use). He also says the ISP claims to have sent him
several emails about the recent overages, but he never received any
of them (and he knows they have his correct address because he's
gotten other emails from them within the same time period).

So, thank you again -- I am still researching this (obviously not
from his connection anymore) and I deeply appreciate all your responses.
posted by jessamyn at 7:16 AM on November 21, 2006

theora55 writes "He should certainly try, and he should also consider finding a new ISP. 1 GB / mo. is not very much these days."

Some places it is, not everyone even in first world countries has access to cheap broadband from multiple vendors. The geometric overages sound outragous though.

Divine_Wino writes "can I ask why you didn't tell me that you live in a country where you can be charged up to and beyond $500 per gig of transfer and you didn't tell me the instant you met me -if only as a point of crazy trivia about the strange ways of your native land?"

Do you realise how typically Ugly American that comes across as? The Poster is the one traveling abroad in an unfamiliar culture not the landlord. Are Singaporeans expected to instantly tell every American they meet in their own country that vandals can be punished by caning?
posted by Mitheral at 8:26 AM on November 21, 2006

Are Singaporeans expected to instantly tell every American they meet in their own country that vandals can be punished by caning?

If the American told him he was going to key some bimmers, I hope the Singaporean would bring it up. A geometric bandwidth overage charge that the OP is expected to pay isn't a random bit of trivia. He should have been made aware of it.
posted by reformedjerk at 9:31 AM on November 21, 2006

Mitheral writes...
Divine_Wino writes "can I ask why you didn't tell me that you live in a country where you can be charged up to and beyond $500 per gig of transfer and you didn't tell me the instant you met me -if only as a point of crazy trivia about the strange ways of your native land?"

Do you realise how typically Ugly American that comes across as? The Poster is the one traveling abroad in an unfamiliar culture not the landlord. Are Singaporeans expected to instantly tell every American they meet in their own country that vandals can be punished by caning?
It may come across as UA, but I also think that since people here from many countries have chimed in to say that the charges are outrageous, the country in question is unusual, and the landlord obviously knows that. Since a Briton, Candian, Australian, or whoever might have done the same thing, it is at least good manners to have mentioned to the foreigner the customs in this country - since it deviates from not only the US, but apparently many other countries. It doesn't absolve original poster of responsibility especially since the update clarified things, but I still think the landlord does bear some responsibility as well.

PS I still think while not total scam, landlord may have used the opportunity of you're going over the limit to download a whole lot of stuff while you're going over to not have to pay the overages for himself. Unless you can tell exactly what the extra bandwidth was, I still think it is entirely possible you are not liable for the full $3,500.00
posted by xetere at 10:16 AM on November 21, 2006

On my first day he told me a certain utility is expensive for him, so I've been very careful about using that utility. He carefully pointed out a number of things in the apartment I could and couldn't use. He said nothing about internet being limited or overage being unusually expensive.

This confirms for me that this is largely his problem. He clearly warned you about other expensive utilities, he clearly knows all about the bandwidth limits (the fact that it was kept to just under the limit in the months before you arrived), and I can't believe that it is inconceivable to him that someone would use more bandwidth than him.

I still think this is a scam, in the following manner: He's got a tenant who he is NOT going to inform about the overage charges. He thinks, now I have three months in which I can go over the limit as much as I'd like, because when my tenant leaves I'm going to hit him with the full overage bill. I'd offer to pay him something like $50 per month for the next year to help him out (and show good faith), but I don't consider you responsible for any of it. If you are going to be expected to pay for something above and beyond the pre-negotiated rent/utilities payment, then (1) he needed to state that upfront, and (2) he needed to inform you (at least vaguely) about what the costs might be.

Can you find a cheap hotel for the remainder of your stay? I'd cut ties with this guy as soon as possible, preferably before you announce your intention to not pay for the full bill.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:27 AM on November 22, 2006

One easy way to find out if it is a scam from the ISP is to call them up and pretend that you are moving there for work and need internet access. As them for their fee schedule, policies, etc. Then call up one or two of their competitors and do the same thing (in-case it is a 'relative/friend' who is providing the original ISP).

Personally, if it is on the level I would still feel partially *morally* responsible - and try to work out a split payment.
posted by jkaczor at 8:50 AM on November 25, 2006

Anyone know what happened with this?
posted by jaysus chris at 1:52 AM on May 19, 2007

I need closure!
posted by bluejayk at 8:33 PM on October 15, 2007

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