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How To Rack Up $28,000 In Roaming Without Leaving the US

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the seasick-yet-still-docked dept.

Communications 410

pmbasehore writes "While waiting for his cruise ship to depart, a man decided to use his AT&T wireless card and Slingbox account to watch the Bears vs. Lions football game. When he got his bill, he was slammed with $28,067.31 in 'International Roaming' charges, even though he never left American soil. The bill was finally dropped to $290.65, but only after the media got involved." He might have left the soil (the story says he was already aboard the ship), but shouldn't the dock count?

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Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (4, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#26969949)

He might have left the soil (the story says he was already aboard the ship), but shouldn't the dock count?

Which means it is likely he was in internal waters [wikipedia.org] (description here [wikipedia.org] ) so unless his contract had a specific clause phrasing "Internal Waters" to be a roaming area then I would assume it is no different than boating out on a lake in Kansas and not subject to roaming charges. Even $290 seems more than a bit steep & unfair.

I'd pay it and change providers but if he's upset, there's always small claims court.

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (5, Informative)

Samalie (1016193) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970037)

You have to dig pretty deep for this to actually be specified, but he was docked at Miami, before the ship ever left port.

The cock-up was that the ship had already turned on their satellite-based cell network, even though they shouldn't have, which resulted in the guy's phone connecting to the Ship's netwrok & being billed at international rates.

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (4, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970191)

Precisely. It's not a grand conspiracy. It's just technology going "a little kha-ka" and the customer having to pay the bill, because a poor design caused him to connect to the international cell tower instead of the local U.S.-based tower.

That's the unfair part. The customer has to pay for somebody else's technological error. If I was the customer, I'd say "fuck you" and refuse to pay.

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (1)

encoderer (1060616) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970435)

I wouldn't call it a poor design.

The design is to connect to the tower with the best reception.

The only real WTF was that the ship turned on their "tower" before it left port.

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26970677)

I wouldn't call it a poor design.

I certainly would. A cellphone should never choose a roaming cell over a local one.

The design is to connect to the tower with the best reception.

In the UK, early on in the development of digital cellphones, some users complained that their phones would pick up transmitters from France if they were near the coast (presumably the Calais transmitter was closer than the nearest one from their network).

As far as I know, this doesn't happen now. A phone won't chose a transmitter from abroad over a local one.

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (5, Interesting)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970799)

"The design is to connect to the tower with the best reception"

But as this story points out, there are factors other than "best reception" than can weigh into which tower is best to connect to. Looking at only one factor in a multi-dimensional problem is a poor design.

In a good design, the phone would connect to a "home network" tower with "acceptable" reception before even looking at an "international roaming / if you have to ask you can't afford it" tower.

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (5, Insightful)

purpledinoz (573045) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970249)

This is completely ridiculous. Customers should be able to set a bill cap to prevent this kind of thing. If you hit the cap, your access gets cut unless you explicitly give permission to charge more. That's why I use a prepaid phone (I live in Germany, so it's dirt cheap here).

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (4, Informative)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970299)

This is completely ridiculous. Customers should be able to set a bill cap to prevent this kind of thing. If you hit the cap, your access gets cut unless you explicitly give permission to charge more. That's why I use a prepaid phone (I live in Germany, so it's dirt cheap here).

Such a cap wouldn't really help you with situations like these. When you roam on another provider that provider doesn't send your call details back to your home provider in real time. They typically collect a few days worth of calls and then upload them to your home provider. There's no way for your home provider to have a real time accounting of the calls that you make while roaming.

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (5, Interesting)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970519)

There's no way for your home provider to have a real time accounting of the calls that you make while roaming.

That's a bit of an overstatement. There are several ways of speeding up the information and if you use CAMEL it's possible for the home network to specify some limits in advance which gives full real time billing control. It would take a certain amount of effort, but it's not nearly impossible nowadays. How do you think prepaid subscribers get service when they go abroad? Do you think the phone company lets you rack up 28k Euro charges on your 30Euro prepaid SIM before doing reconciliation?

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (1)

justleavealonemmmkay (1207142) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970667)

Correct, plus there are things like NRTRDE (Near Real Time Roaming Data Exchange)

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (1)

trampel (464001) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970919)

The german magazine c't ran an article recently about how it is possible to rack up charges on a prepaid card, and they explicitly mentioned international roaming charges.

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26970717)

Which is ridiculous. The roaming provider can stream slingbox to a user but they can't keep usage data up to date in near real-time? No such cap exists because it's more profitable to fuck over people than to implement it.

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26970459)

No, the ridiculous part is a guy is on a cruise ship and all he wanted to do was replicate his living room by watching a bunch of overgrown kids in tights tossing a ball around. I don't know, leave the fucking techno-toys behind and relax on the boat??? Get some drinks, mingle with people? Or why pay at all for a cruise? Just stay at home and get all the homo-erotic entertainment you need for free.

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (1)

moosehooey (953907) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970051)

You'd pay it? Must be nice to just have $28,000 laying around...

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (1)

PortHaven (242123) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970135)

"Even $290 seems more than a bit steep & unfair. "

I think he was saying that he'd pay the $290.

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (1)

fataugie (89032) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970139)

He meant the $290...not the 28K.

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (4, Informative)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970069)

It's likely that he wasn't roaming because he was already registered through the telco relay on the ship, which charges at international rates, despite being within spitting distance of the shore.

The real problem is that he was able to register to the international point before the ship had left port. I wonder how many other people get ripped off by making calls in that area while that ship is in port?

I think he should take it to court...

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (2, Informative)

east coast (590680) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970133)

Just from my recent experiences on a cruise (Carnival using a Verizon phone); I could not use my data plan with the ships service. I tried it just to see if I was able with no luck. I was able to do voice and text but that's as far as it went. I couldn't even send a photo using SMS.

Obviously something went wrong here and different carriers may have different abilities. This is just my personal experience.

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (2, Interesting)

pegdhcp (1158827) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970395)

My phone (and my phones in the past as well) asks lots of questions and basically disturbs me (user...) a lot before switching operators. Is there a different approach in bricks sold in USA??

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (1)

urbanriot (924981) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970415)

If you're connecting to alternative providers at different rates, that's a misconfiguration of your phone. I've owned many cell phones in this life, and I've never seen one that doesn't have the ability to isolate your phone strictly to your provider. Maybe you're in GSM territory which might be different, but here in CDMA land (North America) our phones have this option.

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (1)

Keruo (771880) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970727)

Manual operator selection doesn't differ in GSM. It's same as CDMA.

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970875)

It may be a misconfiguration, but it's also the default configuration. Most phones try to lock on to the best signal, preferring to use the native carrier mode first, but defaulting to whoever will give you any service at all otherwise. Manual selection mode is an option you have to enable, usually buried well down in the option menus somewhere. Of course if the guy in the article were smarter he would have wondered what that little icon (roaming indicator) on his screen was before he watched a streaming telecast.

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (5, Informative)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970193)

As I suspected, TFA says he was connected to the ship's cell network, which should not have been operational while it was docked.

So it's not just me having horrible experiences with AT&T, then. I tried to get DSL service from them last year. After four technician visits, I had service for two full days before it stopped working. I canceled service and returned the equipment in their postage-paid box, and they sent me a $70 bill. I called to complain, and told them I was willing to pay for the two days I had service, and nothing more. They told me they'd look into it, but they had no way of sending me a corrected bill. I did not pay them a penny, and I have not heard from them again.

We also had phone service with them for a bit. When I set it up, I specifically asked for unlimited calling to Canada, and was assured it was on the plan. I called back again for another reason, and was again assured that I had unlimited calling to Canada. Next month's bill? $1200. They had not added unlimited calling to Canada. It took me about a half-dozen calls to sort it out, during which time I was told that it was impossible for me to talk to anyone who was capable of modifying my bill, because "they don't have phone numbers."

I recently had to deal with AT&T Wireless, and was asked to verify my identity. I provided my information, and they told me it was incorrect. I told them they were incorrect. After about two hours of phone calls, it turns out they were using a default value for the information they asked for. When I provided the actual value, they looked at the default, and said that I was wrong. Apparently they could not figure out that "9999" was probably not the actual last 4 digits of anyone's SSN.

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26970419)

We also had phone service with them for a bit. When I set it up, I specifically asked for unlimited calling to Canada, and was assured it was on the plan. I called back again for another reason, and was again assured that I had unlimited calling to Canada. Next month's bill? $1200. They had not added unlimited calling to Canada.

This is why you should always record your phone calls when you call a call center.

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (1)

PRMan (959735) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970485)

Nope, it's not just you having problems with AT&T.

I had such horrible problems with AT&T that I will never give them another dime as long as I live.

Vonage is great, BTW!

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (3, Interesting)

jmpeax (936370) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970495)

I have a mobile broadband (HSDPA) service with Vodafone (they own 45% of Verizon Wireless in the US) in the UK. Occasionally, something will go wrong with a mast that I'm connected to and I'll give Vodafone a call to check if they have any reported problems in the area. The thing is, my account with them has my home post code (equivalent to a ZIP code) associated with it, and back home I don't have 3G coverage. As you can imagine, every time I call them they try and tell me that the lack of coverage in my area (having looked up my home post code) is causing the problem - this seems to instil in them a stubborn scepticism that persists even when I tell them that I'm not at home, and that until 5 minutes ago the signal bars on my laptop were full and I was connected at full speed.

Why call centre workers in the business of troubleshooting mobile data services don't consider that users may not be at their registered home addresses, completely bemuses me.

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (1)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970721)

Every time I've called an actual Verizon rep about a data problem, they've always asked where I was.

How is that AT&T's fault? (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970639)

As I suspected, TFA says he was connected to the ship's cell network, which should not have been operational while it was docked.

Exactly what I was thinking too, though I wondered how that could be performant enough to watch video...

So it's not just me having horrible experiences with AT&T, then

Say what? If the ships cell network is not supposed to be on while docked, why would it be AT&T in charge of enabling that? It would be the ship operators. I'd complain to the cruise line.

I've had most of the cell phone providers at this point and they all sometimes are really good, and sometimes really stink. But we should blame them for things they are actually in charge of!

Re:How is that AT&T's fault? (1)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970709)

I was referring to the fact that after he called AT&T, they reduced his bill to "only" $6000, and it took media involvement to get them to actually fix the bill.

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (2, Informative)

nametaken (610866) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970787)

Since we're sharing horror stories...
I called AT&T for a DSL line to a facility our company was building. Easy enough, they scheduled a date for install, and I informed my boss that the line was coming on that date. After about 5 visits from AT&T and a month later than the install date, they decided that our building was too far for DSL service, and that we were still going to pay them for a phone line we had installed specifically for the DSL service. Imagine how great I looked to the boss trying to play middleman to the f-up's at AT&T.

As a side note, I dealt with the same crap you did... nobody at AT&T knows who to send you to, has no idea what their sibling departments are called, what their phone numbers are, and none of them share any customer information between them... so you get to explain your situation to about 12 different departments every time you call.

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970879)

AT&T reps I've dealt with all have the attitude of a government agency like the IRS, someone you have no choice but to deal with, not a commercial company with competition. It's amazing that attitude survived the breakup, but apparently it has.

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970517)

TFA says he was still in port, waiting for the departure, and that the charges were the result of:

1) The boat, against established rules, had its local portable cellular network active (supposed to be OFF while in port or near land/cell towers
2) his wifi card elected to use the ship's tower instead of the one nearest the port (probably stronger signal)
3) the video app for showing the game was not allowing his wifi to pop up a visible message warning him he was roaming

I'd argue that by (1), it's the boat's fault (and probably can be fined by the fcc for possible interference with land networks?) and that they should be ultimately responsible for that $26k/250 bill difference. That boat's local tower should NOT have been accepting calls.

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (2, Interesting)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970745)

In fact, this is rather obviously a scam. Cruise ships have moderately strong cell towers, the boats are big and full of metal.

I wonder how many international roaming calls have been billed to people who didn't set foot on the ship. Anyone walking by this ship could end up on their network.

And wouldn't it be illegal to operate this thing in US waters? (And cruise ships know when they're in international waters...just ask the 18 year olds who can now order booze.)

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (2, Insightful)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970751)

What determines if one is roaming is the tower to which one is connected.

The ship has it's own cellular tower. His phone was connected to that tower. He was roaming.

If the roaming agreement between the operator of the cruise ship's service and his home service has the ships as being "international" roaming, then it doesn't matter where the ship is.

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (4, Interesting)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970783)

AT&T pulled a rate-switch without notice on me - tripled, I think it was. I changed providers and told them to stick the ($45) bill wherever they like. They sent it to collections, who called me at work once, I don't think I even had to write the cease and desist order to them, they complied with my verbal demand. AT&T called me at home a couple of times and whined, I told them to show me the contract I signed (in 1988 when I got the card) that allowed them to triple my rates without notice. They sent me a notice a couple of years later (like 1998 or so by then) informing me that they can notify of rate changes on their website, all I had to do was pay my last bill to acknowledge acceptance of their terms. Needless to say.....

I had one tiny spot of trouble trying to get a CellularOne cell phone (they were about to be acquired by AT&T), they wanted a $700 deposit - I asked the in-store rep to allow me to talk to the person who came up with that, the person on the other end of the line pointed out my $45 outstanding balance with AT&T, I pointed out the hillarious disproportionality between a disputed $45 bill several years old and a $700 deposit and asked her if CellularOne wanted my business or not... they did, deposit waived.

The $45 dispute was about 6.9 years old when I went to rent a house, it made a good story for the potential landlord - yep, all that time and the only problem I have on my credit is when an asshole corporation tried to throw their weight around, would you honor a bill when the vendor tripled their rates on you without notice? They said they'd do the same thing.

Re:Did His Contract Specify "Internal Waters"? (0)

viruswatts (1039928) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970885)

He might have left the soil (the story says he was already aboard the ship), but shouldn't the dock count?

Which means it is likely he was in internal waters [wikipedia.org] (description here [wikipedia.org] ) [...]

RTFL you provided in your own post. 200 nautical miles off of a national border is international waters. A docked boat isn't in international waters.

Still 290$? (4, Insightful)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970027)

The correct answer is ZERO. He was not roaming and there should be no additional charges, other than his monthly access fee.

Even if his usage exceeded what is acceptable for AT&T, there is no provision in the contracts that allow them to assess that kind of penalty.

I would fight it still.

Re:Still 290$? (3, Interesting)

aicrules (819392) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970341)

I think he expected it to be in the $200 range from the article. I took that to mean either his normal AT&T bill was that much or that based on the amount of data usage (maybe not an unlimited data plan) he expected the $200+ bill. The real issue is that they had the onboard cell tower going which overrode the local tower.

Re:Still 290$? (1)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970479)

He was roaming. The issue is that he should not have been roaming based on his location.

Re:Still 290$? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26970755)

Which cell carrier in this day and age still has roaming charges (within the continental US)?

Whomever they are, please let them know that we no longer are in the 80s and 90s. Roaming, within the continental US has gone the way of the dodo and t-rex. Any company that still applies roaming charges (within the continental US) should go that way as well.

Re:Still 290$? (1)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970903)

he was not roaming, his phone was roaming. That's the point. Too often it's just accepted with a shrug and an "oh well!" that when some component of a service already being paid for (mobile, electricity, water) fails, often one which the customer is contractually obligated not to tamper with, it is the customer who gets stuck with the bill.

This falls under the same category as "City doesn't notice for five years that they have a broken pipe, city bills Joe Random who owns the building over the pipe $6,000,000" in my book

Re:Still 290$? (1)

Blimey85 (609949) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970775)

Actually they do have some provisions for this sort of thing. I have an iPhone and while I was skimming over what was allowed on my plan, I noticed that there was something about running my laptop through my iPhone connection. If what I use the connection for violates their rules then they have the right to bill me for the data usage. Using anything like a p2p program or streaming data to another device all falls outside of what they list as allowed. They specifically list several things but also mention that anything not expressly allowed is disallowed. In this case the guy was streaming data to watch a football game. If I did that using my iPhone to any device other than my iPhone itself, then I could be billed. Apparently watching it on my iPhone is ok though. Then again, programs like Joost block access over 3g although there is an easy workaround so I'm not sure how much they are allowing anyway.

Re:Still 290$? (1)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970877)

AT&T didn't assess any sort of penalty.

Do people honestly have no idea how this works? This isn't AT&T's fault in the slightest.

AT&T got sent a bill by the international cell provider saying 'On such a day, this cell phone incurred X charges'. AT&T sends the bill on to the customer within their own bill, and was going to pass the money back to that provider.

Look, I have AT&T for cell service, and I don't like them either, but they are not to blame when passing on the bills of other people. Hell, from reading the article, it's sounds possible that AT&T is the one that canceled the bill, and that they're the one who has to eat the cost. (Although they'll probably eventually get it out of either the international cell provider or cruise ship.)

Incidentally, it's probably not the international cell provider who's at fault either. They sell cruise ships a cell transceiver and install it...they probably are not in charge of turning it on and off.

Could a mobile on the beach connect to a ship? (4, Interesting)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970039)

I wonder if there is any danger of this happening to anyone using a mobile near the coast?

Re:Could a mobile on the beach connect to a ship? (5, Funny)

The Slashdot Oracle (1458531) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970151)

I wonder if there is any danger of this happening to anyone using a mobile near the coast?

Yes.

Thank you for consulting The Slashdot Oracle.

Re:Could a mobile on the beach connect to a ship? (4, Funny)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970223)

Dear god, how bored must you have been to create this account...

Don't worry, i'll save you the hassle:
---
"Very.

Thank you for consulting The Slashdot Oracle."

Re:Could a mobile on the beach connect to a ship? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26970361)

Yes.
  Some places on the Kent(UK) coast used to be ONLY accessible to FRENCH mobile networks.

Anywhere near a border with a foreign country is at risk of your phone locking onto a 'foreign' network.
What really pisses me off is if that 'other' network is owned by the same company as you standard network yet you get hit with really hefty roaming charges.
Yes Vodafone I mean you....

Re:Could a mobile on the beach connect to a ship? (1)

JohnHegarty (453016) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970663)

No , the ships need to be out or range of the coast before their turn their cell tower on.

Once you are still close enough to pick up any network they don't have it on.

Re:Could a mobile on the beach connect to a ship? (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970871)

That was clearly not true in this case.

I recently was on a cruise (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970043)

And I was told the same thing would happen. While I haven't looked over the breakdown of my bill I was only about 40 dollars more than normal and that included sending several photos and making about a half hour worth of calls from Mexico (which came up on my phone as roaming so I was not surprised)

But there seemed to be no additional charges for the calls and data usage I made from Long Beach, California. My phone never went to a roaming state while I was in port in Long Beach either. So I'm not really seeing how all of this came about or why some people seem to have different experiences with this.

Just for the record this was with Verizon. YMMV. Yadda, yadda yadda.

Also, why can't someone fix this damned text box in Idle? It's really getting old.

Re:I recently was on a cruise (0, Flamebait)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970129)

Someone else noted that he probably ended up connected to the 'cell tower' on the ship. Last time I was on a cruise, I read the pamphlet before getting my phone out. It just wasn't worth the $4/minute to call home when I was only away for a short time.

Now, with a card instead of a phone, it's a lot harder to see if you're connected to a regular or roaming tower. But still, he should have been a little more careful.

I don't blame the carrier anyhow. I blame the cruise ship for screwing their customers like that. As much as I hate AT&T, this just isn't their fault this time.

Re:I recently was on a cruise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26970263)

I blame att. it shouldn't be possible to accidentally rack up such high charges. it would be easy for them to make it impossible. they choose to make it possible, probably exactly because they hope people won't realize how much it costs and end up owing them huge amounts of money.

Re:I recently was on a cruise (5, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970333)

As much as I hate AT&T, this just isn't their fault this time.

Actually it is their fault. AT&T disables the ability of their phones to display a proper roaming banner. Regardless of which network you are on your phone will always say "AT&T". On the other hand, T-Mobile will show the name of the actual network you are connected to, i.e: "T-Mobile", "AT&T", "Cellular One", etc, etc. Given that AT&T removes your ability to know when your phone is roaming I would say that it's very much their fault when people rack up roaming charges by accident.

Re:I recently was on a cruise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26970805)

That isn't true, my AT&T phone said "orange" or "vodafone" as banners when I was in London just a few months ago. It isn't an unlocked model, it is a phone bought through AT&T for use with AT&T.

Re:I recently was on a cruise (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26970883)

As much as I hate AT&T, this just isn't their fault this time.

Actually it is their fault. AT&T disables the ability of their phones to display a proper roaming banner. Regardless of which network you are on your phone will always say "AT&T". On the other hand, T-Mobile will show the name of the actual network you are connected to, i.e: "T-Mobile", "AT&T", "Cellular One", etc, etc. Given that AT&T removes your ability to know when your phone is roaming I would say that it's very much their fault when people rack up roaming charges by accident.

How would this work if he was using a data card?

Re:I recently was on a cruise (4, Insightful)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970467)

This is ATT's fault. Pure and simple. Unless somebody puts it in writing that they want to be able to spend $30k in international roaming, then they shouldn't be able to charge it. That is an amazingly outrageous sum. And then bargaining it down to $6000 is even worse - at least the initial $30k bill was automated, but the $6000 bill was deliberately offered by a human being.

It seems like the cell phone company MO is to trick their consumer into amazingly high bills, and then offering them ten cents on a dollar, accepting only a 5,000% markup instead of a 50,000% markup.

By law consumers should have the right to limit their monthly bills. If a provider delivers more service than a consumer budgeted for then the bill is on them.

Re:I recently was on a cruise (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26970779)

I can't help but wonder how many people get screwed over like this, and just PAY it without a fuss. AT&T wouldn't even try to get away with this if it hadn't worked in the past.

Almost 30K for a football game? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26970059)

I wonder what they charge for the monkey knife fights?

Re:Almost 30K for a football game? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26970175)

Nothing, but minimum bet is $10k

Re:Almost 30K for a football game? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26970241)

It was a game involving the Detroit Lions- the NFL should have been paying him to watch.

Not news. Doesn't matter. (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26970079)

This is fitting for The Consumerist, not Slashdot.

Sure, we nerds like fancy cellular internet connections and, as people, hate to see something like this happen, but it really doesn't belong here.

Happens all the time. (5, Interesting)

WiiVault (1039946) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970081)

When I used to live 5 miles from the Canadian boarder I would hear nightmare stories like this all the time. People, despite being in the US would find that their cell was roaming to a Canadian tower because it had a better signal. It was bad then, even before data. Now I can only imagine how horrible it must be.

Re:Happens all the time. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26970575)

You can always configure your phone to never roam. All the phones I've ever had have had this feature. This will force the phone to try to find a non-roam tower, even if it's low signal.

Re:Happens all the time. (2, Interesting)

WiiVault (1039946) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970793)

That is exactly what I did, and most folks around me- but it only takes a a few people to forget and it becomes news. I did admittedly get a $40 roaming fee once, right after buy a new phone before I remembered to change its settings.

Re:Happens all the time. (1)

mattMad (1271832) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970613)

I don't know about the US - but here in Europe (where living near the border isn't that uncommon) a simple solution for that problem is to deactivate automatic roaming in the settings of your mobile phone...

Re:Happens all the time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26970637)

I met The Canadian Boarder once. For a guy who refused to get his own place, he was quite nice. I certainly didn't have problems using my cell phone near him, but that was probably just because I already had a Canadian plan. The last time I crossed the US border, though, then I had problems with my phone bill.

Re:Happens all the time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26970707)

When I used to live 5 miles from the Canadian boarder I would hear nightmare stories like this all the time. People, despite being in the US would find that their cell was roaming to a Canadian tower because it had a better signal. It was bad then, even before data. Now I can only imagine how horrible it must be.

Well, then they aren't very bright. Cell phones have a network selection option where you can turn off automatic network roaming to prevent that from happening.

Even my first cell phone (back in 1996) had that option, and it would beep & display a special indicator when it roamed onto a different network.

Rate Indicator (2, Interesting)

deserted (1422401) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970099)

This is totally AT&T's fault. However, I do understand that their system was recording his data usage according to International rates. How hard would it be to include a small area of text on mobile devices to display your current rate? I've never been a fan of "just use it, we will tell you how much it ended up costing you at the end of the month." He could have avoided a lot of headache if he had known his connection was screwed up when he originally started watching the game.

Re:Rate Indicator (2, Interesting)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970359)

>>>How hard would it be to include a small area of text on mobile devices to display your current rate?

Hard??? It's a feature! Phone companies love to keep their customers in the dark about how much is being charged.

Remember when you used to dial a "1" prior to making a long-distance call? It used to be simple - local calls were free, unless the operator said "you need to dial a 1 to make this call" in which case you knew you were paying long-distance rates.

Now you have no idea. Is my call to Harrisburg long distance or not? I don't know until I get the 100 dollar bill several weeks later. The phone companies claim the elimination of the "1" was for convenience, but I suspect the real reason was so they could deliver "surprise" hundred dollar bills.

Back to cell phones - they don't want you to know that you are being billed at 4 dollars a minute. It would hurt their profit.

Re:Rate Indicator (1)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970893)

No, it isn't. This is the fault of the cruise ship company and the customer.

There is a roaming indicator on all cell phones.

How hard would it be to include a small area of text on mobile devices to display your current rate?

As the rate varies depending on contract, location, home service provider, and roaming service provider, it would be very hard to provide that.

This is strange (3, Informative)

JazzyMusicMan (1012801) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970125)

Almost all cruise ships now have their own cell tower which they then channel over their satellite links so that passengers can use their cell phones while on board. As far as I know however, they leave these turned off until they are several miles offshore.

http://travel.latimes.com/articles/la-tr-insider5nov05 [latimes.com]

I know this article is a bit old and this might have changed already.

He paid how much for a game? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26970181)

$290.00?

Should have waited and simply bought the Lions with that extra scratch...

Hope He Wasn't A Lions Fan (1)

RapidEye (322253) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970197)

Only bigger insult would be if he was pulling for the Lions...

There's two stories here. (3, Interesting)

OneSmartFellow (716217) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970207)

1.) Why is this guy paying ANYTHING?

2.) How could a few hours of international data service cost that much ?

Re:There's two stories here. (1)

mmkkbb (816035) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970417)

It probably ends up getting billed per kilobyte or something when romaing.

Re:There's two stories here. (1)

Paranatural (661514) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970887)

Never been on a cruise eh?

Cruise ships have their own towers. Normally when docked, they should be off. They act sort of as a middle man, and are crazy expensive. I mean something like $7.99/min. for voice, and Data is worse. I don't think they charge you directly, but they charge your provider, and your provider charges you.

Add on top of that the roaming fees AT&T charges....

Re:There's two stories here. (1)

Zashi (992673) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970913)

It's not by the hour it's by the kilobyte.

Just wait... (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970221)

until people start using Ryanair's new in-flight cell phone system [businessweek.com] . I can just hear the people whining about how much their calls to the ground cost them.

Color me paranoid (2, Insightful)

seeker_1us (1203072) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970233)

But I think the major cellphone providers do this on purpose.

How many of their users would WANT to be able to rack up more than $100 at a single time?

But they give them the opportunity to charge tens of thousands of dollars with one usage.

Logically, they should put a cap on one use, and have the user call and explicity request the cap be removed on a case by case basis, except for super huge millionaires, CEO's, ETC.

Re:Color me paranoid (4, Interesting)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970377)

Agreed. As a matter of law consumers should be able to set limits on any services they contract.

My cell phone provider offers an allowance "service" for a few bucks a month. It is crazy that you should have to pay to limit your exposure.

Consumers should be asked what their maximum monthly bill should be when they sign up for service, and they should be able to change this at any time by calling the provider. Any fee in excess of this amount would not be collectable, and it couldn't be applied to subsequent months. The phone company should give you a warning and then drop service when you hit your limit. Calls to emergency numbers like 911 would be exempt (most providers already provide free 911 access even if a phone doesn't otherwise have a plan at all).

Companies that fail to comply should be fined out the wazoo and injunctions should be placed on credit reporting agencies to withold any negative reports from the provider. There is just no excuse for billing people $30k, $300, or even $3 for a service a consumer did not ask for.

He got exactly what he deserved (4, Funny)

natet (158905) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970275)

I mean, he was watching the Bears vs. the Lions. No network should be forced to even touch that traffic.

Re:He got exactly what he deserved (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26970557)

I mean, he was watching the Bears vs. the Lions. No network should be forced to even touch that traffic.

Pfft. Another oh-so-hip emotionless postmodern internet user. Just what DO you have against laughing, anyway? Best comedy troupe in the NFL, the Lions are...

Re:He got exactly what he deserved (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26970689)

I figured the NFL should have paid *him* to watch that :)

Contract Scmontract. (3, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970287)

The wireless provider obviously needs to do something about how much credit they issue people. Nobody is going to pay a $28,000 bill for cell phone usage.

There's a certain segment of people around here that like to play up "personal responsibility". What they often fail to address is the responsibility works both ways. Letting someone rack up a bill on the order of 1000x normal is utterly irresponsible of the provider.

Re:Contract Scmontract. (1)

shaman0 (863791) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970641)

Well in my country most of the providers have a default monthly limit of around 80-100$, after it has been used out you can't use any services nomore unless you go to a client service centre and write a request to lift up the limit. Of course you can do that prior if you know that it wont be enough for you.

Re:Contract Scmontract. (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970899)

Letting someone rack up a bill on the order of 1000x normal is utterly irresponsible of the provider.

Why is it the responsibility of the provider to monitor how much you use your cell phone? How are they supposed to know, at all times, where you are and who you are calling?

What if the guy really was in international waters? Should the bill be reversed simply because he thinks it's too much? What about if the guy is in the southern part of Chile and making calls?

In the current case, as others have pointed out, it's a screw-up with the ship, not the user but that still doesn't mean the provider has to monitor usage.

International Waters (1)

realsilly (186931) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970335)

....aren't they 12 miles out from shore? If the cell phone company can claim that, then all gambling ships would be able to exist by just having their ships docked.

I would fight this provision of the contract to the point that I paid no more than my regular monthly average.

If you think about it, the cell phone company is saying that if I stepped a few feet into the ocean and made a call they could charge me with international rates.

Sillier notion yet...
If this also were the case, other countries would use this as a loop hole to say hay, America I'm here with guns pointed at you and you can't touch me from your soil because I'm standing in 2 feet of water from your borders and I'm in international waters.

Ok, that's way overly extreme, and just out there, but it was fun to think that extreme. I figure a few of you wouldn't mind the laugh.

I am realsilly, after all.

Re:International Waters (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970623)

12 miles? I believe it's 200 miles...

Re:International Waters (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970649)

yah, but we would bankrupt the enemy because they would end up paying roaming charges on all their communications.

TOS violation? (2, Interesting)

irving47 (73147) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970343)

This pisses me off to no end. As a stockholder, I *really* hate reading that AT&T has gouged another one. Seriously.
BUT, isn't there a clause or statement in the TOS that says streaming video is a no-no?

Re:TOS violation? (1)

PRMan (959735) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970549)

Well, then you must love to read that AT&T is the only company that I will never deal with again as long as I live. I would die first.

Why does he have Roaming on? (2, Interesting)

urbanriot (924981) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970371)

I live near the US border in Canada and my phone often prioritizes or switches to American providers since Canadian providers seem to have little to no support at the edges of the country. When I was younger, I'd accidentally made a few calls while connected to the American providers and those were costly. My provider refunded me the difference, walked me through disabling roaming (or Home Only option) and told me if I ever did it again I'd have to pay for it.

200 Miles of U.S. territory (1)

mlwmohawk (801821) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970391)

A little known fact, U.S. Territory extends 200 miles off the shore.

The ISP should be fined.

Why he is not legally obligated to pay (3, Interesting)

Jimmy_B (129296) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970429)

From the article, he was billed at 2 cents/kbyte, which is $20/Mbyte. Based on this rate, and the bill amount of $28,067, he used about 1.4GB of bandwidth. The article says he watched a single game of American football, so assuming that took about 3 hours, the connection speed is about a megabyte/sec, which means that it was billed at... $1,200 per minute.

Under common law, if you request a service for which payment is customary, you are obligated to pay any, even if you were not told that payment was expected or what the price is. The common example is that if you go to a restaurant and order food, you incur a debt even if you never looked at the menu. However, this is only the case when the price charged is "reasonable". A restaurant cannot unexpectedly give you a $1000 bill after you have ordered, even if that price was printed on the menu, and expect payment. While sellers have considerable leeway in defining what is a reasonable price, no court could possibly find that $1,200/minute was a reasonable price for consumer data service anywhere. Therefore, he is not obligated to pay, and if AT&T took him to court over it, they would lose.

Re:Why he is not legally obligated to pay (2, Informative)

Jimmy_B (129296) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970465)

Whoops, I messed up the pricing calculation there; the actual estimated rate should've been $150/minute, one order of magnitude less. That's still three orders of magnitude higher than the typical price for that kind of service, though, so the reasoning stands.

Slashdot Readers are not Lawyers (1)

LonghornXtreme (954562) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970935)

I am not a lawyer

And neither are you.

Sounds like a great way to make a few bucks. (1)

Buelldozer (713671) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970481)

They "accidentally" (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) turn on their satellite relay system while in port. I wonder how many people wandering around the port "accidentally" connect to that system and inadvertently put a few dollars in the pocket of the cruise line? This guy caught it because the amount was so high, but how many people wouldn't notice a small charge for a short phone call?

The real WTF... (1)

cant_get_a_good_nick (172131) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970553)

You went through all that effort for a Bears Lions game? This spoken from a long suffering Bears fan. In Chicago, we don't have quarterback controversies; we have quarterback dilemmas.

Federal waters (1)

deuist (228133) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970609)

Given that the U.S. claims to own all of the oceans extending 200 miles beyond the coast, I'm pretty sure that the man was still considered on U.S. property.

why in the name of fuck is this still fucked? (0, Troll)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#26970921)

I was actually going to post about the fucking article but now I see this is idle bullshit. Why is this fucking window still scruched up? Why can't they use the normal posting pages instead of creating a custom gimptarded piece of shit for Idle? What purpose could it possibly serve aside from making Idle feel even more useless than it already is?

Fuckitty fucking fuck!

As for what I was planning to ask, "Why the hell are cell data plans so expensive to begin with?" The fucking SMS messages are 20 cents on my carrier. I know the idea is that you're a captive audience and can be fucked as the provider feels is warranted just like they can charge you $8 for a beer in a sports park but seriously, where can we draw a line?

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