A Canadian oil worker managed to run up an $85,000 phone bill with Bell Mobility after erroneously thinking he could use his handset, and its $10 unlimited internet plan, as modem for his computer. We’ve seen this sort of story before, dating back to Joi Ito’s GPRS roaming bill in 2004, and more recently with plenty of iPhone users who are now familiar with international roaming charges.
On the one hand, people should make themselves familiar with their tariff. On the other, operators don’t generally do a great job of making that very easy. Indeed, the guy in this case says, “I told them I wasn’t aware I would be charged for hooking up my phone to the computer.” Whether that’s his own fault or the operator’s is somewhat irrelevant — the real issue is that they never bothered to let him know he was running up a huge bill.
It seems like it would be pretty easy to have a system that sends the user a text message when they incur a certain amount of charges — indeed, some operators offer such a feature. This is useful not just for people who aren’t aware of the details of their plan, but in the case of fraud as well. Whatever the small cost of such a system would undoubtedly be saved by helping to prevent the PR damage from these sorts of stories.
Bell Mobility has been kind enough to lower the bill to $3,243 — the equivalent amount of charges on the best data plan that allows tethering — as a “goodwill gesture”. Again, on the one hand, the charges are legitimate, as the guy isn’t arguing that he used the phone as a modem. But on the other, a little proactivity from Bell Mobility could have saved them this PR mess, since the media has a voracious appetite for these tales. But, I guess they figure all that damage will only cost them $3,243, so it’s worth it.
Update: Tarek pointed out a part of the article I skipped over:
“The thing is, they’ve cut my phone off for being like $100 over,” he told CBC News. “Here, I’m $85,000 over and nobody bothered to give me a call and tell me what was going on.”
That makes it even more galling. If they can do it for voice, why not for data?