Are Data Roaming Charges Justified?

by Istvan Fekete on March 6, 2013

Opening your phone bill can trigger different reactions, but for Matt Buie, a financial planner and father of an 11-year-old son, the last time was a complete shock: $22,000 worth of data charges during a family trip to Mexico.

Fido subscriber Matt Buie is paranoid about roaming charges, so before he and his family flew to Mexico, he was advised to switch his iPhone to airplane mode to prevent roaming.

But after his son got sunburnt and was advised to spend the rest of the vacation in the hotel room, Buie allowed the 11-year-old to spend the time playing video games he had installed on the phone.

But besides playing games, the boy turned off the airplane mode and started streaming YouTube videos, streaming approximately 700 MB of data (or about 12 hours of video), which ran up a bill of $22,000 in data charges.

The case shed light on a timely question: How much do carriers charge for 1 MB of data? It turns out that Rogers and Fido charge six times more than Telus for one minute or 1 MB of YouTube video. The Rogers/Fido bill for streaming 1 MB of data is $30, while its competitor Telus charges $5. Bell charges $8. There has been no word from Rogers explaining why it charges six times more than its competitors for the same service in Mexico, so the question remains open.

Matt Buie’s bill isn’t an isolated case. A Vancouver woman also got into fetal position when she opened her phone bill after spending a vacation in Egypt. The bill was $37,000 for using about 1,600 MB of service during her trip back in 2011.

Another story: Calgary resident Jason Boutang visited France for a week at the beginning of June 2010, used a translator app to help him, and streamed a Calgary rock radio station. The result: An $8,000 bill from Virgin for those seven days.

But all’s well that ends well — Fido agreed to slash the bill to $500 (interesting, isn’t it?) – but the question of whether the roaming charges are justified or not remains open. PIAC estimates Canadian telecoms made about 25% of their total revenue from data fees back in 2010.

Update: According to an email received from Rogers, the customer never got a $22,000 bill. When this type of situation happens, the carrier has internal processes in place to identify these customers and their usage prior to their bill being sent out and then they proactively work with them towards a resolution.

Also, Rogers offers roaming packages for many popular destinations at a lower cost than its competition. For example, in Eurasia, Caribbean & Latin America, Middle East, Africa, Rogers offers a discounted data rate as low as $3/MB and Telus only goes as low as $4MB.

Written by: Istvan Fekete. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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