Canadian hit with $10,000 data roaming bill

You may remember that in October we reported on a Florida woman who got a massive $200,000 bill from her wireless provider. The huge bill was generated by her brother, who shared her wireless plan, and then went to Canada and forgot to turn off the smartphone's data roaming features.

Now there's word that a Canadian man got a huge bill of his own when he forgot about the data roaming charges on his own account. CBCNews reports that John Gibson, from Weyburn, Saskatchewan went on a recent trip to Phoenix, Arizona. He brought along his laptop with a data connect stick from the SaskTel wireless provider.

Gibson's son Jason and his grandchildren Jayden and Sawyer watched a few movies on Netflix via the laptop with the mobile data stick while on vacation in the States. When the family came home to Weyburn they got a bad surprise when they received a bill from SaskTel for over $10,000 ($10,668.38 to be exact).

As you might expect, the culprit was the data roaming plan that Gibson signed up for. He didn't take those extra charges into account when his family traveled across the border to the US.

Thankfully, SaskTek had some mercy on Gibson and agreed to reduce the bill he had to pay to around $1,000. However, it's yet another lesson to read about the extra charges you might get from your provider if you choose to take your smartphone, tablet or laptop data stick out of your country of origin.

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Rumor: Nokia to reveal new high end smartphone soon

Next Story

PC shipments continue to fall in Western Europe

60 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

hdca18 said,
Mobile providers in Canada have a monopoly, charing off the chart rates for measly data limits. So unfair.
To be fair, roaming data is a rip off with every carrier, Canadian or not

The phone company knows your phones location 24 hours a day. They can stop your phone service instantly for not paying your bill but they can't send you a text or call you about unusual out of the norm data and roaming activities.

"As you might expect, the culprit was the data roaming plan that Gibson signed up for. He didn't take those extra charges into account when his family traveled across the border to the US."

This is his own fault. Not the companies fault he was stupid and didn't read his contract?

tmorris1 said,
"As you might expect, the culprit was the data roaming plan that Gibson signed up for. He didn't take those extra charges into account when his family traveled across the border to the US."

Corporatist

This is his own fault. Not the companies fault he was stupid and didn't read his contract?

One word for all you folks in SK: Prepaid.

Just broke my Rogers contract last month and switched to Prepaid on SaskTel. $40 a month ($25 talk + $15 for 150 my data, only need it for emails, use Wi-Fi at work and home). Never been happier.

As it looks like, it's definitely time for the the US/Canadian/Australian and other authorities to interfere - even if they own their own communication companies. However, the issue could easily be handled differently as my example shows: Swisscom, the Swiss national phone/data provider, sets all accounts to a default limit of 200 SFr. (approx. 220 US-$) for roaming charges. If 80 pc of this amount are used up, a warning SMS is sent out, if 100 pc of this amout are reached, the account is temporarily blocked until the user requests to either have the account reactivated or/and requests a higher limit. Maybe some US/Canadian/Australian official read these lines and act correspondingly..?

So he buys a piece of tech and doesn't make himself aware of what the tech entails and what he has to pay to use it......ignorance is bliss.

If you can go to a country.... Buy a PAYG SIM with a Data Plan and the rate for using data on said card is less than half the cost of your roaming plan you are being charged too much.

What I mean by this is the cost of roaming should be your networks charge + the partners charge for the usage + a sensible markup. Their is no way roaming partners charge more to their partners than they do their own customers so it's just pure greed that bills like this are generated in the first place.

Whether it's agreed to or not their is no way that doing something in a different country on the internet which for 95% of the time can be done over WIFI or on a local connection for the same cost as the country should amass costs into the 1000s of $

This problem seems to be worldwide though and it's down to sheer ignorance of the customers. Last time I was in the US my UK provider wanted £7.50 ($12 per MB). For the cost of a few MB I could get a pre-paid phone plan with some data allowance thrown in so it doesn't take a genius to figure out that someone is taking the ****.

Unlike phone calls The Internet is a world wide presence and doesn't require a long distance intentional connection which costs 10x the rate so why consumers still accept this from the network is purely down to the fact they all do it and are allowed to get away with it.

Unplugged said,

Unlike phone calls The Internet is a world wide presence and doesn't require a long distance intentional connection which costs 10x the rate so why consumers still accept this from the network is purely down to the fact they all do it and are allowed to get away with it.

mm, no it doesn't simply work that way. When you roaming you're getting a secret temp number assigned to your phone and your original number forwards all calls to it.

Same with data. When I roam, the websites will see my ip address of my phone from my original carrier in original country not the country I visit. So there is definietly something more involved in the roaming process than just data packet relay.

blue_man123 said,

mm, no it doesn't simply work that way. When you roaming you're getting a secret temp number assigned to your phone and your original number forwards all calls to it.

Same with data. When I roam, the websites will see my ip address of my phone from my original carrier in original country not the country I visit. So there is definietly something more involved in the roaming process than just data packet relay.

Well yeah it does. What your referring to is essentially a VPN tunnel back to the home network via.... The Internet. You don't forward data on roaming networks in the same way as Calls and Texts. It's irrelevant whether the data usage occurs on the partner network or it's tunnelled from the home network the usage is exactly the same. It's the same scenerio if i was to take my PAYG data package, tether and VPN into my office back home.

When you dealing with Data it's all Data as far as the network is concerned and someone is creaming off a extortionate profit and laughing in the face of cell phone users. Calls are a slightly different kettle of fish however it's largely going that way with telephony when you take VOIP into consideration.

Really, something like this just proves how out of whack the pricing schemes are, and they ARE schemes! This proves the prices we pay are nothing short of extortionate gouging and it needs to stop! People need to stand up and demand change! However, that will never happen in the US or Canada because people are lazy, and passive.

A cell phone should be for sending and receiving phone calls.
I just wonder how we survived before cell phones came along.
Solution, pay-as-you-go prepaid voucher.
My Suzie has a cell phone that can text, take pictures, play music and send and receive calls.
Costs on average £10 every 6 months.

leesmithg said,
A cell phone should be for sending and receiving phone calls.
I just wonder how we survived before cell phones came along.
Solution, pay-as-you-go prepaid voucher.
My Suzie has a cell phone that can text, take pictures, play music and send and receive calls.
Costs on average £10 every 6 months.

Who cares how we survived without them? That's the biggest cop-out line in the world. We survived without them, because they didn't exist. Now they do.

Take it off her since she's not using it for only calls!

Bottom line. The features only exist because people want, and use them. Don't attempt to speak to everyone. Unfortunately, PAYG/PP doesn't work for everyone.

Nashy said,

Who cares how we survived without them? I do. Take it off her since she's not using it for only calls! Don't tell me to take a cell phone off my partner when it is her and she uses it in the correct manner.

You may see life through the eyes of a caveboy, the rest of us don't.

Cell phones did not exist to the general public till you were about 7 years of age.

So NO they have not been around all of the time.

Bottom line. The features only exist because people want, and use them. Don't attempt to speak to everyone. Unfortunately, PAYG/PP doesn't work for everyone.

You can have all the features posers want by jailbreaking phones that are supposed to be contract.

leesmithg said,
You can have all the features posers want by jailbreaking phones that are supposed to be contract.

Point? In Australia Pre-Paid doesn't have any restrictions over plan, except you can't get $0 handsets, and unlimited call, text and more data than a phone needs.

leesmithg said,
A cell phone should be for sending and receiving phone calls.
I just wonder how we survived before cell phones came along.
Solution, pay-as-you-go prepaid voucher.
My Suzie has a cell phone that can text, take pictures, play music and send and receive calls.
Costs on average £10 every 6 months.

A PC should only be for word processing! A TV should only be for watching over-the-air broadcast content!

Seriously, technology evolves, deal with it. What was originally a device for making phone calls on the go is now infinitely more useful in my every day life. I have a single device that acts as my phone, email client, Sat-nav, games console and organiser.

I would never want to go back to a "regular" phone now. Could I live without it? Sure, if I had to, but why would I want to? This one device makes my life much easier.

Are you serious? This made front page news? This happens all the friggin time!!!

Here's the steps.

1. Go to Whirlpool's forums (Australian site)
2. Look in Telstra
3. Look at all the bills that make this $10k look small.

Just last week there was $25k. It's normal, it happens, because idiots don't read what data roaming costs.

This isn't news Neowin. Not at all.

Nashy said,
Are you serious? This made front page news? This happens all the friggin time!!!

Here's the steps.

1. Go to Whirlpool's forums (Australian site)
2. Look in Telstra
3. Look at all the bills that make this $10k look small.

Just last week there was $25k. It's normal, it happens, because idiots don't read what data roaming costs.

This isn't news Neowin. Not at all.

Yeah it seems to happen frequently here in Australia, and quite a few of those ridiculous bills are just by going over caps, not even roaming.

Nashy said,
Are you serious? This made front page news? This happens all the friggin time!!!

Here's the steps.

1. Go to Whirlpool's forums (Australian site)
2. Look in Telstra
3. Look at all the bills that make this $10k look small.

Just last week there was $25k. It's normal, it happens, because idiots don't read what data roaming costs.

This isn't news Neowin. Not at all.

what do you mean by front page news, aren't articles here arranged by date and time

Nashy said,
Are you serious? This made front page news? This happens all the friggin time!!!

Here's the steps.

1. Go to Whirlpool's forums (Australian site)
2. Look in Telstra
3. Look at all the bills that make this $10k look small.

Just last week there was $25k. It's normal, it happens, because idiots don't read what data roaming costs.

This isn't news Neowin. Not at all.

It is news, but what you stated is BIGGER news.

LaP said,
Time for the gouv to regulate. I don't like it but it's becoming a necessity.

funny that the company we're talking about is owned by the provincial government and heavily regulated by the national government's governing arm the CRTC.

ISP should be required by law to block internet access after the client reach a certain limit. Sadly the roaming charges are extremly high and most of the time, it is done by someone else than the account owner.

Just product updates such as "Windows, Office, Adobe" are eating up my 4G internet bandwidth on the train.

ZeroFearX said,
ISP should be required by law to block internet access after the client reach a certain limit. Sadly the roaming charges are extremly high and most of the time, it is done by someone else than the account owner.

Just product updates such as "Windows, Office, Adobe" are eating up my 4G internet bandwidth on the train.

You would also have to deal with the fact that most roaming charges are several days/weeks behind when they occurred. Until this problem is fixed there is no way to block access after a certain limit while roaming.

ZeroFearX said,

ISP should be required by law to block internet access after the client reach a certain limit.

Finally someone who makes sense. Gratz. That would be a good idea.

ZeroFearX said,
ISP should be required by law to block internet access after the client reach a certain limit. Sadly the roaming charges are extremly high and most of the time, it is done by someone else than the account owner.

Just product updates such as "Windows, Office, Adobe" are eating up my 4G internet bandwidth on the train.

Data usage doesn't update immediately, it takes awhile for the meter to update. This means that you can quite easily have gone well over the limit before the ISP knows (e.g. in my country we have crappy internet with low data caps, but I can easily go about 20GB over my data cap (doesn't cost me cos they just slow my internet down to a crawl (and by crawl I mean ~10KB/s) once I go over) before my ISP realises that I've gone over my 60GB cap).

Not to defend the phone company - but just how many news stories need to be posted before morons realize there is a roaming charge?

Rohdekill said,
Not to defend the phone company - but just how many news stories need to be posted before morons realize there is a roaming charge?

Moron ????

The fact that you can have a phone bill higher than the cost of a house is where the stupidity is. I would call the companies morons not the users.

I'm sort of with Rohdekill here, I have yet to meet someone who doesn't realize that when they enter another country they incur roaming charges. He agreed to this contract so he should know what sort of charges to expect, if he didn't then that's no one's fault but his own. I'm not saying these charges aren't ridiculous and I'm glad they got reduced but the father has no one to blame but himself here...he needs to be more responsible it seems with things like this.

LaP said,

Moron ????

The fact that you can have a phone bill higher than the cost of a house is where the stupidity is. I would call the companies morons not the users.

$10000 for a house? Do you live in a caravan?

Boxster17 said,
I'm sort of with Rohdekill here, I have yet to meet someone who doesn't realize that when they enter another country they incur roaming charges. He agreed to this contract so he should know what sort of charges to expect, if he didn't then that's no one's fault but his own. I'm not saying these charges aren't ridiculous and I'm glad they got reduced but the father has no one to blame but himself here...he needs to be more responsible it seems with things like this.

What I think it scary is the guy probably earns twice the amount I do and yet unable to grasp the basics of asking the phone company before leaving the country if there are going to be additional charges when using a given service in the destination country.

Wolfbane said,
$10000 for a house? Do you live in a caravan?

Did you read the article ?

"You may remember that in October we reported on a Florida woman who got a massive $200,000 bill from her wireless provider. The huge bill was generated by her brother, who shared her wireless plan, and then went to Canada and forgot to turn off the smartphone's data roaming features."

LaP said,

Did you read the article ?

"You may remember that in October we reported on a Florida woman who got a massive $200,000 bill from her wireless provider. The huge bill was generated by her brother, who shared her wireless plan, and then went to Canada and forgot to turn off the smartphone's data roaming features."

$200000 is still a very cheap house.

Data roaming should honestly be a feature you need to enable manually (on the device or have to call the company).

Xilo said,
feature you need to enable manually (on the device or have to call the company).

This type of thinking illustrates a disconnect between consumer devices and communications services.

The gap is in desperate need of a bridge.

Edited by deadonthefloor, Feb 8 2012, 2:15am :

Xilo said,
Data roaming should honestly be a feature you need to enable manually (on the device or have to call the company).

On certain models it is (at least on Iphone 4S/Blackberry 9900).

Xilo said,
Data roaming should honestly be a feature you need to enable manually (on the device or have to call the company).

It is on Android devices, not sure about other phones.

kat_bg said,

On certain models it is (at least on Iphone 4S/Blackberry 9900).

In my experience it's off by default on all phones I've used.

Regardless, Data Roaming is the road to hell. I've never had it turned on. It's just not worth it in case of mistakenly leaving it on.

sava700 said,
I would have made them pay it all.. business is business - you need to know what you are using at all times.

Answer this, if the tables were turned and you was landed with such a bill (for what ever reason) would you jump and down about it having to pay it? No ifs or buts.

StevenNT said,

Answer this, if the tables were turned and you was landed with such a bill (for what ever reason) would you jump and down about it having to pay it? No ifs or buts.

If the tables were turned, I would know the terms of my contract and not get this bill in the first place. Simple as that.

episode said,
Did you really use the term 'laptop data stick' on a tech blog?

quoting the source. We are a province of farmers and ranchers and miners with urban ecosystems to support that. Better to use the local vernacular than educate those with better things to do.

dotf said,

quoting the source. We are a province of farmers and ranchers and miners with urban ecosystems to support that. Better to use the local vernacular than educate those with better things to do.

yeah its not as if anyone here is technologically competent or anything

AFineFrenzy said,
yeah its not as if anyone here is technologically competent or anything

What I meant is that it's better to quote the source than be accused of editorializing.
In the geographic region where this corporation operates, there is low computer literacy. Most people just want the sh*t to work.

This is another reason example of, can we do better.

I say, sure we can.
I don't see why the 3G/4G, LTE APIs within Windows 8 could detect changes from local to roaming networks and adjust usage accordingly.
With the recent insight into network improvements through the metro UI it seems possible.

Does a standard exist for networks to announce this information to OSes?

dotf said,
I don't see why the 3G/4G, LTE APIs within Windows 8 could detect changes from local to roaming networks and adjust usage accordingly.
What LTE API's are you talking about? There is no such thing as a Windows 8 LTE API. Do you know what API's are or are you just using some technical term you heard someone using one day?

Actually,

He will not be required to pay the last 1k.
The 1k left on the charge is based on the taxes charged by the provincial and federal government which are applied to the bill automatically.
They will be automatically refunded in the next billing cycle.

This was revealed on a local radio talk show.
I'll see if I can find a link to the transcript.

Over paid, i would have settled for $30. Charging like this is extortion, there is no way the company was charged that much for roaming on another companies network. If I am wrong there needs to be laws passed so that doesn't happen, someone is getting rich off of monopolies.

mr.miek said,
Over paid, i would have settled for $30. Charging like this is extortion, there is no way the company was charged that much for roaming on another companies network. If I am wrong there needs to be laws passed so that doesn't happen, someone is getting rich off of monopolies.

ISPs, phone companies, etc. pay 1 penny (US) per gigabyte...and SMS Text messages are FREE for every carrier in every circumstance.

It's really despicable what we are being charged for this in the modern age where everything is really cheap data via the Internet.

mr.miek said,
Over paid, i would have settled for $30. Charging like this is extortion, there is no way the company was charged that much for roaming on another companies network. If I am wrong there needs to be laws passed so that doesn't happen, someone is getting rich off of monopolies.

I agree, ridiculous! I am for fewer laws and smaller govs. but in this case, there SHOULD be laws enacted to prevent this kind of crap.

I'm not sure why we can't get a text message about data usage amounts, especially gross overages. I can get one when my bank balance falls to a certain threshold, so why not one for data usage?

BottleTop said,
I'm not sure why we can't get a text message about data usage amounts, especially gross overages. I can get one when my bank balance falls to a certain threshold, so why not one for data usage?

Ny carrier does at 75 and 95 percent used data, but it could be better. And I had to activate the feature on their website. Here's an example text:
Free TELUS msg: You have used 75% of your included CDN data; upgrade your data bundle by visiting http://www.telusmobility.com/dataupgrade