Mammoth phone bill, by Flickr user

Mammoth phone bill, by Flickr user “Me and the sysop

It’s easy for all of us to get angry at big corporations. And it’s become the stock in trade of blogs like Consumerist to chronicle the failings and missteps of the corporate world.

But a story I learned about this morning (via the CBC’s consumer segment “Go Public“) made me wonder about just how consistently “evil” corporations are, and where the line gets drawn.

The story goes like this:

A financial planner from Burnaby went to Mexico on a family vacation. While there, he had switched his smartphone to “Airplane Mode” to avoid roaming charges. All was well until his son got sunburned. What then? The boy spent a lot of time in the family’s hotel room, playing already-downloaded video games (cool). However, he also took the phone out of “Airplane Mode” and … streamed something like 12 hours of video from Youtube. That resulted in a $22,000 bill by the time the phone provider Fido(owned by phone giant Rogers) cut off data service.

Apparently, the bill was cut to $2,200 and then to $500 by the provider.

A couple of points here:

  • The roaming rates for Fido are apparently higher than other providers. 
  • At least one other provider has a $200 cutoff point for data charges.
  • Canada’s roaming rates are among the world’s highest.

So now that we’ve set out those provisos, let’s look at the question of responsibility. The dad in question admits that had he removed the SIM card from his smartphone, this couldn’t have happened (of course, if he had told his kid to read a book it wouldn’t have happened either). Another important point:

“Buie is a financial planner from Burnaby, who said he is paranoid about roaming charges. Before his family went on vacation in January, he said Apple store representatives advised him to switch his iPhone to ‘airplane mode’ to prevent roaming.”  If you’re that “paranoid”… you give your kid your smartphone?

Possibly the most interesting part of the CBC story that piqued my interest in this is the comment section. Sure, media story comment sections are where you go to forget that humanity has potential. But even here, the number of comments that are critical of the user are significant. I would have expected an almost 100% anti-Rogers comment section.

I’m not absolving Rogers / Fido of blame here. And maybe their policies or rates need work. But at the same time, it’s difficult to look at this case and not think of the actions of the owner of the phone in this case as they contributed to the problem.

When consumers run into trouble, sometimes they run into it on their own two feet.

Pass on the flacklife:
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