Family forgets to change to a roaming plan, receives $201,000 cellphone bill while visiting Canada

Ian Hardy

October 18, 2011 3:47 pm


Traveling outside Canada can be a killer on your cellphone bill. We’ve seen many Canadians get hit hard with massive bills, some have reached as high as $37,000, a $8,000 and $13,000.

This one is from our friends south of the border who came to our great land and sprung a HUGE bill. Celina Aarons and her two deaf-mute brothers all share a plan and the only way they communicate is via text messages. The brothers came to Canada for a couple weeks and she forgot to change the plan, activating roaming, and dolled up over 2,000 text messages and watched a few videos. Upon opening the 43 page bill the total came out to be $201,000. Aarons stated that “I was freaking out. I was shaking, crying, I couldn’t even talk that much on the phone. I was like my life is over!”. T-Mobile graciously reduced the bill to $2,500 and gave the family 6 months to pay.

Source: CP24

  • AverageK

    Holy crap! Good for T-Mobile, I respect them for helping out those poor people! I can’t imagine being put in a similar situation!

    • RealDeal83

      Ummm how about T-Mobile reduces it to something more in-line with the actual cost like $100, instead of ripping off these people that rely on this to live a somewhat normal life.

    • havy

      T-Mobile has to pay the roaming Canadian carrier fees to likely Rogers. So they wouldn’t be able to reduce the costs to $100 unless their Canadian network partner also waives them. And ‘a couple of videos’ can use quite a bit of megabytes.

  • James

    Lol

  • FiZi

    SO GRACIOUS OF YOU T-MOBILE.

    Conversation should have been: “Ok tell you what. Let’s charge you what the roaming would have cost had you remebered to get the plan. Thanks for choosing T-Mobile!”

    Which is STILL a ripoff.

  • OccupyWallStreet

    The US and Canadian mobile providers have become a joke around the world with their ridiculous gouging of the common person’s cell-phones. SMSs cost absolutely nothing to a provider – it’s just a milking cow for them.

    • Kushman

      Ya that makes complete sense since milk is free right? When commenting, you should try and make sense, not just spit out garbage!

    • Alex Perrier

      Milk is a regulated consumable available at a reasonable price, even if it may cost more in other nations. Internet service, including SMS and MMS, is an unregulated non-consumable that is overpriced, unlike milk.

  • brent mifsud

    now imagine if that happened here… I dont think rogers/bell/telus would have been that generous.

    • Terry

      No they wouldn’t. Unless that is you take the issue to the press. That always seems to get them to lower the price of the bill.

      Though they would never give a 6 month grace period. They would just incur interest on the free until you pay it off.

    • Jatan

      Hey that’s the reason all the companies in Canada are making such high profits while an average person in Canada now has a higher debt ratio than to our neighbors. Now you understand why :)

    • Baester

      What are you talking about? That is utter crap, because I remember all the bigger cases resulting in the CDN telcos lowering the charges. Even the girl who used $37K with telus – AFTER being notified, cut off and called – still got her bill dropped to almost nothing.

  • john

    would have been a lot cheaper if they were smart and just got a Canadian sim and put it in their unlocked phone and text as much as they want without worrying. man people are so dumb. People here listen, when you dumb @sses travel outside of your country, this is what you do, take out your sim from your home country, but a new sim from the country your visiting, and rammo your saving tons of money not paying roaming charges. These huge bills are your fault and your problem alone, learn not to incur roaming charges by using a sim from the country your visiting. This is not the cellphone companies fault. You should of been stuck paying that $201,000 bill since you were to stupid to figure out not to incur roaming charges. And I don’t feel sorry for you one bit.

    • DUD

      HEY BUMFUZZ,
      WHATS ABOUT LOCKKED PHONES, HUH?
      SMRTEN UP.

    • trevor

      umm it takes like less than 5 minutes to unlock any phone, no excuse by saying my phone is locked, if people are smart enough they’ll take the 5 minutes it takes to unlock their phone

  • David R.

    Good for T-Mobile.. but this really makes me wonder why cell phone providers charge so much for roaming in the first place. They really have no justification for such ludicrous roaming fees, it’s just not right.

    • Senk

      It’s pretty simple. They bill an exorbitant amount for roaming and then the consumer gladly pays a reduced amount thinking the provider has done them a favour. The provider still makes a riduculous profit.

      It’s practically extortion!

  • Xer

    T-mobile should not reduce the charge. If they cannot pay it, sue them until they file bankruptcy protection. This is the only way people learn and they should learn it the utmost difficult way.

  • Plaz

    This is just downright stupid, I’m sorry. How could you think that you could go into another country and just use your phone like it’s nothing? I’ve never met anyone that’s so “out of it” that they didn’t understand that basic concept of a cellphone. Usually it’s old people that don’t even know how to use computers that fall into this category. This is just a damn shame.

  • Tom

    I recently noticed that Rogers roaming rate, on their best and most expensive roaming plan, is double WIND’s normal roaming rate without any plan (I was looking at data roaming in Europe).

    The worst part about the situation on Rogers is that you have to get a plan at all. You have to call them up ahead and try to predict how much data you will use (most people have no idea). And there is a reasonably good chance that the rep will make a mistake because they are so confused by the complexity of all the plans and rates.

    I guess the reason Rogers does this is because the plan requires you to pay a minimum of $100 and many people probably guess wrong and get too much, so Rogers gets to keep the difference.

    I guess this is about what one should expect from the incumbents.

  • ghost

    what really appals me is what kind of world do we live in where some text messages end up costing $2500 let alone $201,000?

    what will it take to to regulate this industry?
    a 2 billion cell phone bill?

    even in a nightmare scenario where a robelus customer goes to Europe and goes bucks on their phone, there should be a some max limit to how much they can be charged (200 bucks?)

  • Bieter

    The last sentence was incomplete. Let me adjust it for you, guys:

    “T-Mobile graciously reduced the bill to $2,500 and gave the family 6 months to pay, while happily racking in a profit of $2,495.95″

  • Netguru

    Under threat of Congress passing legislation, the US carriers all “voluntarily” agreed to notify customers when they are about to exceed their monthly limits on voice, text and data. It was reported in the news this past week.

    It is just common sense. What other industry would let you exceed some established credit limit without notifying you…even if it is just to verify that it is really you running up the charge? Would the bank or credit card company let you do that. Hell no!

  • Mike

    I think thats the best story ive heard all day.

    T Mobile deserves a High Five! Thats the way a corporation should act.

  • joe bill

    I went to Poland last year and got charged $18 for txt msgs I never sent. Bell refused to refund. If you ever leave Canada, you can ask Bell to deactivate txt msgs while you are gone.

    All postpaid plans should be suspended if a certain bill charge level is reached. Of course the providers won’t do that – they make money from additional fees and they won’t want to prevent that.

  • Jim R

    Should be a law that requires providers to indicate their cost in providing the service in cases such as these (define “cases such as these” as you will). Perhaps that would shame the providers into being more reasonable.

  • Anon

    @joe bill

    I went to Poland this summer and just bought a 20PLN (roughly 7$ CAD) pay as you go SIM. For 9PLN (about 3 CAD), I had unlimited data for the month, and the rest of the money lasted me for the remainder of the month. I paid about 14$ Canadian, for two months of voice, data and text.

    Please tell me why this is not possible in a country like Canada.

    • DUD

      HEY BUMFUZZ,
      IS ACAUSE POLAK IS LESS THAN HALF SIZE OF PEI.
      SMRTEN UP.

  • HJ

    So they really were ‘deaf and dumb’!

  • strong silent

    How about automatically detecting when this is happening and notify the user… its not rockets science. Let the write an app to do that.

    • SImon

      Actually T-Mobile does notify users when the phones register on an international roaming network. The user is also notified when the user gets $50 worth of usage accrued and gives offers to turn off data roaming.

      You have to ignore the message for no changes to occur on the account.

  • Ju wong

    T-mobile charge 0.20$ per text message na dthat make only 400$ for the 2000 text message. The video part its more tricky, they charge 10$/mb that mean they use 200 000$ of roaming fee wich is about 20 000mb close to 20Gb . that huge. The story isn’t all that clear

  • Zod

    I went to Europe last month. The first thing I did when the airplane landed was swapped out the sim card with a pay as you go card for the UK.

    High Roaming fees (especially in north america) is pretty common.

    I suppose T-Mobile’s solution is the most fair. I’m guessing T-Mobile probably has to pay the Canadian carrier quite a few dollars as well. There’s no way they’ll ever collect 200k, so shrinking it, is a good idea.

    It’s too bad north american carriers can’t get their stuff together, and make some universal roaming agreement, so people can use their phones elsewhere.

    When I was in the UK, then went over to Germany/France/Holland. It went from 7p/minute to call home to Canada, to 37p/minute. Not supercheap, but way better then if I roamed in north america. Text messages stayed at 10p outgoing, free for incoming.

    I’m not sure why north america roaming is so bad, but in the current climate, everyone should think twice before turning on their phone outside of their country.

  • laridae

    Makes me glad I’m on pay-before.

    Sounds like it’s time to give 60 Minutes and Michael Moore a call! What a great story!And so timely too with everyone p o’d with Wall Street and big business in general.

    Bilk the unsuspecting. Gotcha!

  • TeknoBug

    I read about it this morning, that easily trumps the stupid Bell and Telus users this past year racking up $38K and $64K, but bravo for Tmo on handling it. If it was AT&T I guarantee they wouldn’t do anything.

  • ace

    next time they can just got to wind and pop in a sim. its super cheap to roam, i got my parents a phone, they roam entirely on rogers while traveling around in Canada and USA. you can’t beat 25c a min across north america.

  • Wil

    International roaming does cost real money to the carriers. In this case, T-Mobile has to pay the Canadian carriers for the use of their towers, as well as the routing of the text messages by a third party (maybe Syniverse), and the use of the T-mobile network. I’d estimate 10 to 15c/message, mostly in external fees.

    Foreign SIMs are a huge hassle because you have to get a new number and activate it, plus the phone might be locked.

    Jeez, with a bill this high, she’d be dealing with the office of the president.

  • boojay

    It sounds like T-Mobile is about as gracious as Apple is at making a good phone.

  • t

    texting should cost nothing. the fact that they had to pay for it , is ridiculous. i’ve been in a similar situation before & it sucks.

  • Richard

    my 2600 square foot house cost me 260k to build including granite countertops and three car garage. Maybe not including landscaping, land, decks and basement but 210k, really. 7 megs of data.You think these guys would make the price reasonable so people would actually use it.

  • Generation Nothing

    Really? Seriously? Since when does an honest mistake mean that you DESERVE a break? Why do some of you honestly expect someone else to pay for your ignorance or naivete? If people are made to pay for these ignorant mistakes…the people that made the mistake will probably stop making them.
    You can’t keep asking for do-overs…its not a game, its a lesson in life.

  • Matt

    User fault, they should pay the full cost, no matter how ridiculous. Sorry, but they crossed the border without adjusting plans or anything. Tough luck.

  • Jon

    The first thing I did when I got this phone was get it unlocked. It was the best $20 I’ve ever spent. I have an at&t gophone account so when I travel it costs me maybe $30 at a time for near unlimited access to my phone. Roaming fees can’t even come close in competing with that. It makes me laugh that companies are so greedy in canada they would pass along a $200k bill to someone when at $30 they are already making a huge profit.

  • E G

    For those of you that are complaining about the high cost of cell phones in Canada/US. Fine. It’s expensive. But do you have any idea how much it costs to keep the networks running and to keep expanding them?! One tower, JUST ONE tower that will provide service for an approx. 2km radius costs of $250,000. Do you think ROBELUS can just print money…? You can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t rant and rave about how much LTE costs and how it should be cheap as free when it costs almost $4 BILLION to deploy an LTE network across Canada. If you want access to LTE speeds, or a good network, you have to pay for it. I pay $50 for Shaw internet service, which I think is expensive, but I don’t complain because I could pay $5 for dial-up but have slow connection… This is the same thing with roaming. T-Mobile has to pay Rogers for their customer using their network. It isn’t free. If all phone companies would always wave the overages, we’d either still be on EDGE, or without decent provider. These charges and fees are in your contract. Read it, or don’t sign something you don’t want to pay for…

  • Bo Hica

    I agree with the last few posters…since when is your own mistake someone else’s problem?
    There is a real Generation Nothing that didn’t get tests in grade school, didn’t get homework, and didn’t really work hard in school. They paid their student fees in university and expected a piece of paper and treated it like any consumer product. Everyone passed in school so their feelings didn’t get hurt. Wow, what a shocker now that they are in their early ’20′s or ’30′s…still living at home and blaming everyone else for their ignorance.
    Funny…not really, just sad.

  • JIm

    I call them “Blackberry Zombies”. Stumbling out of elevators, going down up escalators, bumping into other people. Many people cannot shift their car from Park to Reverse or Drive without planting the phone to their ear or balancing it to start a text message while driving in heavy rush hour traffic. Sure, I have a Smart Phone, but I use it sparingly, don’t do the mindless games and never get close to using up my “minutes”. Thanks for listening to the “other side”.