'I was in shock': Why Canadians are still struggling with runaway cellphone charges


After CBC Hot item ran a story about a cellphone customer who got hit with a $24,000 data dawdling charge, more customers started writing in with their own nightmare invoice stories. 

And most involved big data charges. 

“It’s still haunting me and attacks me angry,” wrote Toronto’s Lobsang Yargye, who received an unexpected details roaming bill for $1,117. 

As we do more of our living online, we’re developing an even enthusiastic thirst for wireless data. And often, it doesn’t come cheap.

Canada’s Wireless Traditions was created in 2013 to help protect consumers from runaway names. But even the country’s regulator acknowledges it needs fine-tuning.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is reviewing the rules. And critics say it’s time for the CRTC to put some tougher measures in place to make sure Canadians don’t get stung by excessive wireless fees.

“Data can be very precious, especially if you go over your plan,” said Alysia Lau, legal instruct for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre in Ottawa. “We think protection from facts bill shock is absolutely important.”

Who’s approving your data censures?

When Sarah Lewis of Brockville, Ont., received her Bell bill in December 2015, she affirms she was floored to discover a $493.66 charge for exceeding her iPad’s wireless data limit.

“My fundamentals hit the floor. I was in shock,” she said.

The single mother says she used the materials sparingly on her iPad and would have never knowingly run up the bill.

“It was only just so heartbreaking to see that money go for nothing,” said Lewis, who went by her welded name, Fernetich, at the time.

Apple Apps

When Lewis figured out how the approval procedure works for data overage charges, she concluded her son must have consented without her scholarship. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

To protect customers from wild charges, the Wireless Code says service providers must cut chaps off once they run up $100 in roaming fees and $50 in data overage permeates.

Customers can only continue if they consent to paying for more statistics, typically by responding “yes” to a text message from their provider.

Lewis’s invoice shows somebody consented to the added charges. It wasn’t until recently that she well-educated how the approval system works. Now she realizes her teenage son must have provided seal of approval. 

“We don’t let children make decisions like that,” she said. “They’ve got to contrive of a better system.”

It’s too easy to say ‘yes’

The CRTC has already acknowledged the problem of laddies approving charges in a shared family plan where there are multiple narcotic addicts, each with their own phone.

Major telecoms Bell, Rogers and Telus all told CBC Statement they offer tools like alerts, apps, blocking privileges and roaming package deals to help customers monitor and manage their observations.

As a further protection, Bell has proposed that the code require work providers to email account holders — that is, the parents — when another utensil user on the account approves data overage charges.

Telus has make one thought allowing a user to consent to additional charges only if the account holder has victualed approval in advance.

But those proposals wouldn’t help people disposed to Lewis, who didn’t have a family plan, just a single iPad she parted with her kids.

Plus, it wouldn’t protect people like Jesse Janssen of Vancouver, who didn’t write-up his lost cellphone for two weeks. During that time, a mystery child approved $24,156.91 worth of data roaming charges by replying “yes” to a manual message on his phone.

His provider, Telus eventually dropped his charge to $1,224.

Jesse Janssen cellphone Telus consent wireless

Jesse Janssen of Vancouver got a catch napping cellphone bill with more than $24,000 in data overage commissions. (Jesse Janssen)

“You should not be able to just say yes over text declaration,” said tech analyst Daniel Bader.

The senior editor with the tech spot Mobile Nations believes the Wireless Code has served Canadians reservoir flow. But he says it’s time to beef up the rules.

The CRTC needs to implement much stronger examinations and balances on these authorizations and consents.”

He proposes a verification system where purchasers must also enter a personal identification number when assenting to added charges.

After their own experiences, both Janssen and Lewis come inputting a password would better protect consumers — even admitting that it requires an extra step.

“I’d rather one minute of inconvenience than a [$500] banknote at Christmas time and the heartache,” Lewis said.

What about the bring in?

A passcode may help prevent some Canadians from getting astonish cellphone charges. But there’s another issue the code doesn’t talk to: data plan prices.

When the CRTC asked Canadians to submit their invoice shock experiences, many complained about data costs.

“Statistics prices are outrageous!” wrote one person.

“Cellular providers gouge faked on demand. It used to be minutes, now it’s data,” said another individual. 

According to a CRTC-commissioned relate, Canadians pay some of the highest rates for wireless service in the world.

Internet advocacy faction, OpenMedia argues the best way to protect Canadians from nightmare wireless tallies is to mandate more affordable plans. The Vancouver-based organization says that determination include an unlimited data option at a reasonable price.

Unlimited evidence plans aren’t widely available in Canada. But in the U.S., three major haulers — Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint — each offer some version of an immeasurable deal to all customers.


In August, T-Mobile announced a new unlimited data arrange. (T-Mobile/YouTube)

“We’re not really going to see that bill shock vanish until there’s some sort of reasonable unlimited option for Canadians,” suggested Meghan Sali, OpenMedia’s digital rights specialist.

The CRTC has articulate repeatedly that it doesn’t meddle with telecom pricing. But carry on year it mandated a $25 skinny basic package for cable TV chaps.

Price regulation may not be in the cards for wireless customers. But critics — and many consumers — say it’s undisputed the CRTC needs to consider some kind of new measures to further cure Canadians manage their data.

After all, as Sali warns: “We are just going to be using more and more data.”

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