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Another Traveler's Phone Bill Nightmare Gives Everyone a Lesson

Another Traveler's Phone Bill Nightmare Gives Everyone a Lesson

Photo: fPat/Flickr (CC)

Michael Barkoviak/DailyTech

P. Morgan Brown learned the hard way how crafty wireless providers can be.

On a quick trip to Indonesia, his wife took her Verizon Wireless cell phone and when she came home, a nice big surprise was waiting for her. The first bill, with charges at $2.50 per text message and $1.75 per one-minute phone calls, came out to around $8,000.

“We almost missed a mortgage payment when the auto-withdrawal for the first bill came through and wiped out our checking account,” Brown said in an interview with Tribune Media Services.  “What a waste of money.”

Similar stories continue to popup from time to time, as a growing number of phone owners use their wireless plan for sending messages, checking e-mail, and browsing the Internet.

The European Union (EU) currently has rules in place — which go into effect this month — capping text message roaming charges at 11 Euro cents per message.  Data rates are capped at 1 Euro per MB.

Unlike the EU, the United States doesn’t have similar laws in place to protect consumers, but growing political pressure from Washington may be all that is needed to force a bit of change in the telecom industry.

In the U.S., businesses pay an average of $693 per trip per traveler because of roaming charges related to voice and data plans.  In Europe, the average wireless company is able to generate between 3 and 10 percent of their revenue from roaming charges.

“When you roam, you are using your phone on another company’s network, not the network of your own wireless company,” said Ken Grunski, Telestial President.  "These other companies general charge high wholesale charges to your company for using their network.

Essentially, it’s almost all profit for the wireless companies, as it doesn’t cost either provider $2 per minute for phone service.

International travelers need to take note of these incidents and make logical gadget decisions such as: Purchasing a local phone and getting on a temporarily international plan, use VoIP, swap SIM cards, or the most simple, just leave the phone at home.

_© 2009, DailyTech

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