back to article Canadian runs up $85,000 mobe bill

A Calgary man who mistakenly believed that a $10 "unlimited mobile browser plan" would enable him to surf the internet with impunity, "downloading high-definition movies and other bandwidth-hungry applications", was slapped with an $85,000 bill for his trouble. According to Canada's Globe and Mail, 22-year-old Piotr Staniaszek …

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  1. Dan Grabski
    Thumb Up

    Duh...

    Ignorance of the law is no excuse, me boyo....

    People still get caught out by those extra charges on mobiles. A cousin recently got her very own mobile and commenced texting all her friends...all day...enough to rack up a bill of US$500 for the first month. Her mom was not pleased.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Title

    Well best of luck to him. While pleading foolishness isn't much of a defence, no company should allow someone to change purchase pattern and run up such a bill without querying it. The Telcom knew what it was doing too.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    FS!

    MOBE! EMBARGO! GRR!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Either

    ...the bloke is a complete idiot or mobiles really do fry your brain. I suppose some would claim that being Canadian he falls into the first category but I wouldn't risk immediately jumping to that conclusion.

  5. Dam

    using as a modem not part of the data plan ?

    quote:

    "using the cellphone as a modem wasn't part of his data plan"

    Errr, hold on there.

    What's a modem supposed to do then, playback dumb tones ?

    That's called dialing, after that it kinda transmits... you know... *data*

  6. Des

    Immigration Application?

    ...maybe he can move to the US now he's passed the IQ test?

  7. Chad H.
    Flame

    I'd a made him pay the lot.

    Damn Freeloading bastards "oh, I'm too stupid to read the terms and conditions, give me free stuff.

    Its time we stopped rewarding studpidity.

  8. Tony Barnes

    Edge?

    Isn't the fastest mobile connection stateside Edge??

    And aren't fixed broaband connections cheap as poo??

    Confused as to why he would ever of bothered....

  9. Smell My Finger
    Flame

    Moron in huge bill shocka

    What is it with these chumps who think for $10 a month they can use any resource without limitation? There is no "hold on there" -- his plan clearly stated he had unlimited web browsing from his phone, that's totally distinct from using it as a peripheral device connected to a PC. The man is a cretin of the very highest order. Welcome to no sympathy night.

  10. Tim
    Thumb Down

    Struggling with this too

    Well, not really. Sounds like 'unlimited' is only that as far as the provider's own walled garden is concerned. Of course we all know how much of that 'content' we'd actually want.

    What you would legitimately expect as a user is that you have unlimited access to data through the device whether it's used as a handset or as a modem. The distinction sounds quite artificial to me and I think he can be forgiven.

    Not sure the telco can get away with hiding behind the modem driver's warnings; if he got the software from the handset manufacturer rather than the telco then he'd have assumed the warnings only applied to those without 'unlimited' data plans.

    Thumbs down to the telco and a 'good luck finding the four grand' to or Canuckistanian hero.

  11. Phil Rigby
    Paris Hilton

    What did he download?

    How much "high bandwidth" content can you download on a cellphone based modem? It would be what, a 33.6K data rate? He's hardly gonna get a full-length movie in a realistic amount of time... and yeah, we can blame it on him being Canadian.

    Paris Hilton icon, because her Sidekick was hacked so easily :-)

  12. Scrat
    Paris Hilton

    Modem

    It depends on the carrier; tethering is considered by and large a big no-no and many of the telco's like to slap you down hard (e.g. Verizon Wireless); however it's a good unwritten rule that if you tether lightly (IMAP emails would be a classic example) then you can fly under the bandwidth radar (many would argue you can get away with more so mileage will vary).

    Not so this schmuko - if he honestly thought that his monthly $10 Canadian gave him unlimited access then he deserves the large bill he got. When I signed up with VW I was very careful to research exactly what my five bucks a month gave me (answer: Sweet FA)

    Welcome to the 21st century where everything costs and a thought process based off "caveat empor" was never so bloody valuable.

    Sure he's not related to Paris H?

  13. Mark

    @Dan Grabski

    However, this is a contract, NOT a law, so your pithy (or should that be "pissy") listtle statement has no bearing.

    What should happen is this slate written off and now he KNOWS and can be proven to know what the deal really is. It's not as if transferring the data actually cost them anywhere near that ammount, is it.

    If the company had told him he'd run up a bill of $1000 in a day then they could have told him, just to make sure. If they let him build up debt then that's not right, is it.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    I see both sides...

    but maybe the telco should slap a credit limit on their customers? It seems like some alarm somewhere should've gone off long before he hit $85k.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    I may be ignorant here but....

    modems signals are not data as such. They are actually analogue calls, in the same way as voice. Granted they rely on better clock signals than voice, but are analogue none the less, so surely they should be treated as voice calls.

    Like I said, may be completly wrong as I haven't used a modem for about 4 years and never on a mobile.

  16. Chris Morrison
    Pirate

    Pah

    The wee guy against the big corp, hope he gets off with the bill.

    Count to 10 though and you'll see an RIAA van pull up at his house just to see what kind of Hi-Def movies he has been downloading!

    $80,000 could end up being cheap!

  17. Lee Ward
    Paris Hilton

    Canadian ?

    The recent science tests from the Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) ranked Canada 3rd in the world, the UK 14th ( (1) possibly due to taking the test in a pub) and the USA 29th ( (2) likely due to the fact that everything in the USA is done by a nice invisible being)

    Other Categories:

    Literacy

    Canada 2nd

    UK 7th

    USA 15th

    Math

    Canada 6th

    UK 8th

    USA 19th

    http://www.siteselection.com/ssinsider/snapshot/sf011210.htm

    Surely this kid* just recently moved to Canada from the UK, USA or more likely Brazil ?

    *he evidently lives at home so he's either a kid or a loser. I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt

    Cheers !

    I use Paris as my icon because she's a good example of not using your brain.

    *(1)http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/10/02/booze_teens/

    *(2)http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20071208-more-shots-fired-in-the-war-on-science.html

  18. Neil

    I'm on the guy's side

    If you can download as much as you like using your mobile on this price plan, there isn't a huge stretch to using the gsm components via your pc and basically just not using the screen and keypad on the mobile.

    Interestingly a couple of days ago I was in a "3" store chatting to a salesman who mentioned I could pay £5 per month for unlimited web access. I asked if I could bluetooth it to my laptop to use it as a modem and he said no - not with that model. For that I'd need an N95. He didn't go on to say that would incur extra charges - but I bet it does.

    What astonishes me most is how he didn't get cut off as part of a fair use policy...

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Only a luser.

    "...his plan clearly stated he had unlimited web browsing from his phone, that's totally distinct from using it as a peripheral device connected to a PC..."

    It may seem so to you, maybe. To the general user, "from his phone" includes "via his phone". And it's no surprise that the telco just merrily let him run up such a huge bill. If there's a limit on how much traffic can be passed "inclusive" there should be a warning as soon as that limit is exceeded, and probably one saying it's being approached.

  20. Pete Silver badge

    It's time that internet companies spoke our language ...

    ... instead of taking words with well-defined common meanings and twisting them into marketing speak. For example 20Mb/s* (where the * means "up to" and usually only gives you 1/3 rd of the headline figure). Or "unlimited downloads" where unlimited really means "however much we want to cap you at - which we'll never tell you".

    If a phone plan says yo can use the phone to connect to the internet - that's it, you can USE IT. Real people don't know what "tethering" means or even what a "modem" is for that matter. If phone companies want to make your usage so restrictive, that information needs to be in plain english (or canadian) and at least as high-profile as the original headline.

    It's about time some of the regulators took on the phone and internet companies. I really hope someone takes an ISP to court soon and gets a judgement that this woolly advertising practice has no standing.

    Maybe I should start paying "up to" £15 per month for my "up to" 10Mb/s connection: fair's fair.

  21. Charlie
    Thumb Down

    Ahem

    "Ignorance of the law is no excuse, me boyo...."

    As Mark rightly points out, ignorance of the law is nothing to do with it.

    If, and in this case it's not likely, the company failed to inform him appropriately of the relevant details of the pricing plan, then his ignorance most definitely is an excuse.

  22. Lee Ward
    Paris Hilton

    ok ok ok fine.. he's a loser......

    ...though I still say 22 yrs old means you're a kid ;)

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    But....

    If he comes from Europe then maybe he was used to mobile phones with actual data connection via bluetooth rather than tone based (voice) connections. He probably just missed the sign at customs saying he was entering the 3rd world.

  24. John

    How about..

    Companies stick to using the dictionary definition of words instead of redefining its meaning in small print.

    The company sold him an 'unlimited' data package and a phone that was capable of hooking up to his PC, it absolutely shouldn't be up to the individual to read all the small print to find what 'unlimited' actually means when we all have a full understanding of its exact meaning already.

    Wait till we are buying a car with unlimited mileage* or 5yr warranty and getting reamed by the small print. when the salesman isn't upfront about it and we are too taken in by the new smell than stand reading the T&C's.

    *1000 mile

  25. jubtastic1

    Unreasonable contracts.

    Basically, it shouldn't ever be possible to run up an $80,000 mobile bill.

    There are no exceptional circumstances where this sort of sharp practice is ok and to allow this to occur on a $10 a month data plan is simply criminal.

  26. Chad H.
    Stop

    Cellphones as modems

    Those of you who haven't used a cellphone as a modem need to bear in mind this isn't like your old dial up modem... These can get great data rates... Some phones and networks will do up to 3.6 megabit... The latency sucks though. The only thing that they have in common with a dial up modem is the way you set windows up to make the connection.

  27. JeffyPooh Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Canadian Mobile Data Carriers - YMM extremely V

    1) Rogers EDGE Network = Five cents per kilobyte (~$50,000/GB)

    2) Bell - varies from place to place... $75 EV-DO plan requires 3-yr contract

    3) Telus EV-DO Network = $75 + $6.95 + $0.43 + tax (unlimited, month-to-month)

    Hmmm... which one should I choose...? Hmmm...

    I am using a Sierra Wireless 595U EV-DO gadget plugged into a Cradlepoint CTR-350 'travel' modem to provide my house-in-the-forest with high speed Internet access not otherwise available. This gear combination provides a 1+ Mbps WiFi hotspot for "$75" per month - apparently really truly unlimited.

    My first week's data usage was about 3GB and the line item on my first bill showed $0.00 in extra data fees. The bill from Telus simply listed the $35 start-up fee, the first week fee, and the next month's fee (billed in advance - which is fine, as agreed).

    That amount of data (3GB in one week) would have cost $152,000 from Rogers EDGE Network. But if it was on a data plan, maybe only $92,000. LOL.

    By the way, the huge province of Alberta (where our $85 Calgarian friend is located) is almost 100% covered with the Telus EV-DO network.

    Here is my EV-DO in Nova Scotia blog:

    Link = http://evdo-novascotia.blogspot.com/

    Not reading the fine print is bad.

    But charging $50,000 per one GB is completely insane. It's just lunacy. Crazy babbling nonsense. It's like if a gas station upped the price per liter to 1 million and some people didn't notice and suddenly owed $50M. No. It's insane and totally unjustifiable. The telco deserves to eat the bill - this time and many more times. There are reasonable limits and they're over them by about 30dB.

  28. Dan B
    Paris Hilton

    Although he is an idiot - I hope he wins his case

    Unlimited should mean unlimited - but it doesn't. I would have been tempted to try something like this if I didn't have access to home broadband although first making sure i'd read the T&C's.

    The provider probably assumes no-one is going to be able to download very much on a mobile connection but guess what - my N95 can download videos from youtube, it can load full webpages with all imagery and embedded flash... all without using it as a modem. I could EASILY rack up a few hundred megabytes with ordinary browsing. What I would expect to be a bit cheeky would be using P2P, but I BET that wasn't in their Ts&C's and that my friend is their problem.

    There will be an acceptable usage policy but surely they should have contacted him when it was found to be higher then $50/$100.. letting it get up to the thousands of dollars - crazy!

    And not being allowed to use your mobile phone as a modem? Why not...

    It's data all the same whether it's being displayed on your handset or your PC.

    My friend in uni halls of residence at the time tried hooking up his mobile to his computer to activate HalfLife 2 when it first came out - probably a few hundred megs, and there wasnt an unlimited plan back then (rather idiotic but he was desperate). A mobile almost-broadband connection with 'unlimited access' would have been perfect back in those days, would have seemed quite a reasonable proposition, and if used would result in thousands of dollars of charges. Rather unfairly I think.

    Rip em a new one. Perhaps then they will learn to use easily understandable language when advertising their products.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    @ Phil Rigby

    Not necessarily. Although on a basic plan, yes, he probably was speed-throttled, it all depends on what the provider's idea of 'basic' is. The second basic plan from my provider is 512kbps which is more bandwidth than my father's UK-based landline connection. They also offer a higher-end package, for example 1M or even 2M for a relatively small monthly fee - the latter is double the speed of my landline internet.

  30. John Parker
    Dead Vulture

    no "mobe" !!!

    "Ignorance of the law is no excuse, me boyo...."

    ... and what about the law that you can't use the word "mobe" in an article..?!

  31. Morely Dotes
    Flame

    @ Tony Barnes

    "Isn't the fastest mobile connection stateside Edge??"

    No. And Canada is not "Stateside." It's a sovereign nation (no matter what Brown and Bush may tell you).

    "And aren't fixed broaband connections cheap as poo??"

    If you want the quality of poo, yes. 128kbps is not, IMHO, "boradband," but it's advertised as such, and it *is* cheap.

    However, large portions of North America barely get dialup; broadband simply is not available at all. This is not the UK, where towns are barely a mile apart; we have stretches of wilderness with literally 200 or 300 miles of open road and no more than a single house every 10 miles, and lots of places are even less heavily populated.

    The entire North American continent is *not* New York City. You should get out more, Tony. Perhaps a geography class...

  32. Ross

    Learn to read

    Another case of someone signing a contract without reading it. If he had bothered to read the contract in the first place it would have been clear what he could and cound not do as part of his plan. Instead he just did what he thought he should be able to do.

    Tut tut.

    Frankly the offer of $3k seems reasonable - they're giving him the best rate for the service he's used. It's not often you see that!

    Todays lesson - either read the contract, get someone competent to read it for you, or walk away. I get *so* fed up with these whiney types that plain refuse to take responsibility for themselves...

  33. A J Stiles
    Unhappy

    What?

    So in Canada, you get sent a bill for mobile phone usage *after* the event, like a landline? That sounds like a recipe for disaster. And this story confirms it!

    If you pay for the calls you're going to make before you make them, the most you can lose is what you've already spent. You can still wipe out a £20 top-up in a few seconds if you're not careful, but at least it was only £20.

  34. Tom Silver badge

    Should have gotten "pulled over"

    The phone company is really dumb! They play bandwidth police and let you speed away only to tell you the "fine" is cumulative. It is like the police issuing speeding tickets at the end of the month, after you have been speeding all month because you heard the word "unlimited". When he ran up a bill of over $1000 the first day they should have warned him about his activities (limited his access). The $85k in a month is STUPID, the phone company should know better.

    Moral of the story: Don't mention "unlimited" very loud. At least without explaining it AND getting the customer to understand the term as it applies (difficult these days, I know!).

  35. Will
    Alert

    re: I may be ignorant here but....

    "modems signals are not data as such. They are actually analogue calls, in the same way as voice. Granted they rely on better clock signals than voice, but are analogue none the less, so surely they should be treated as voice calls.

    Like I said, may be completly wrong as I haven't used a modem for about 4 years and never on a mobile."

    You are confusing the method of transportation and encoding (analogue / digital) with the content within. Lets say a modem does use analogue signals (I don't really know) that doesn't preclude it from being data. Data doesn't = digital.. radio signals are analogue, aside from a select few 'HD' broadcasts, and they carry massive amounts of data.

    All that aside, an 'unlimited data plan' should be just that. this company is clearly using marketing-speak to confuse users like this poor Canuck.

    The user who lives by caveat empor is correct but that doesn't excuse misleading offers and newspeak about features. consumers are what keeps these companies alive (mostly) and they should be treated fairly.

  36. Chad H.
    Stop

    @ dan b.

    this isnt an unlimited means unlimited case. He was given unlimited web for the exclusive use of being viewed on his phone, not using his phone to connect to his pc. This is a we told you you could use it one way, but you used it in another.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo

    Cell Phones

    Cell phones are no different than home phones in the respect to billing. Post paid accounts can rack up as much as they want. I used to work for Verizon Wireless, so I know how it all works. Just like a 1-900 call can rack up your phone bill at $2.99 per minute or more, data usage can too. EvDO is wicked fast, and they just release a 2MPbs standard. Thats faster than my 512kbps DSL connection! I can see why he would use the cell phone instead, but he should have known that unlimited MOBILE browsing, as in ON the MOBILE, not EvDO data flying THROUGH the mobile. As far as I know, there is no way to throttle EvDO, its either on or off. Qualcomm didn't build that into it.

    I think the reason so many outside US/Canada/S Korea people are confused is becuase GSM doesn't have EvDO becuase of it being such an old standard and they don't realize how awesome EvDO is.

  38. Lee Ward
    Coat

    @ AJ STILES

    Posted Thursday 13th December 2007 18:09 GMT

    So in Canada, you get sent a bill for mobile phone usage *after* the event, like a landline? That sounds like a recipe for disaster. And this story confirms it!

    There are 2 main ways to have cell phone in Canada.

    1) "Pay-as-you-go" works like a prepaid phone card. You put a specific amount of money, of your choosing, on the account and the phone works until that money is used up. You then put more money on the account and use it up. Like filling a gasoline/petrol tank.

    2) A service just like a land line. This is commonly under various contracts where you get a specific price for each component. A possible common example would be: Evening and Weekend Local Calls For Free, 240 Minutes of daytime calling and unlimited text messaging for a monthly few. With a contract like that you would pay extra for anything outside of that list. e.g. over 240 minutes of daytime calling.. web browsing etc

    Smart Parents use option 1 (pay as you go) for their kids.

    People without the brains to keep track of their usage or the desire to fully understand their contract usually pick option 1.

    Businesses and people who have a handle on their expenses use option 2

    Obviously the "I can't read a contract" guy in this case, should have chosen option 1

  39. Chad H.
    Alert

    @ aj stiles...

    what world are you living in? Unless you have a pay as you go phone, here in the uk like most countries, if you have a contract, and you go outside allowance, you pay the difference.

  40. Dom
    Paris Hilton

    OTOH...

    My (French) telco (Bouygues) has sold me an unlimited (up to 50 meg) 'Blackberry Option'. Have a look, if you read French : http://www.modedemploi.bouyguestelecom.fr/Modedemploi/select_blackberry.htm

    I'm still wondering about that.

    To reassure you all, I'm not actually paying for it yet, either. I thought I'd see what the first free months are like.

  41. Paul
    Joke

    @Morely Dotes

    Time to face facts...

    Canada

    Population 2006 census 31,612,897

    2006 GDP Total $1.165 trillion

    United States

    Population 2007 estimate 302,981,000

    2007 GDP est. Total $13,675,129 m ($13.6 trillion)

    Yeah, Canada is "Stateside" ... and there's this large Elephant in the room too.

    Cheers!

  42. JeffyPooh Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    "Unlimited"

    The nice lady at Telus (the perky Canadian mobe Telco where I bought my Sierra Wireless 595U) quite specifically stated that my "$75/month" (actually $82.38 + tax) EV-DO open (month-to-month) contract was "Unlimited unlimited unlimited unlimited unlimited." I actually counted the 'unlimited' words and there were precisely five in a row.

    The Sierra Wireless 595U EV-DO gadget doesn't have a screen and doesn't have a keyboard. It only has a USB plug. I could plug it directly into my laptop or into my desktop, but instead I plug it into the CTR-350 and it creates a WiFi hotspot. Now the Nintendo DSs and Wii, the Sony PSPs, the laptop, the desktop, the home theatre gadget, and more - they can all access the Internet.

    We've been waiting for years for high speed Internet to arrive in our neighbourhood. It will probably arrive within the next two years (Cable or WiMax). For that reason, I bought the 595U outright (list price) so I'm not tied into a 3-year contract. When a better offer comes along, then I'll switch.

    The size of this kit is amazing. Very small. The entire 595U + CTR-350 + AA battery pack could fit under your hat. You could wear a T-shirt that says, "I'm a WiFi Hotspot" and hang around in parks. Carry the PSP and you could even control the CTR-350 router and make money by charging $2 per hour. But that might be outside the scope of the 'unlimited' contract...

    I hope that this info is helpful...

  43. Shun F

    $3000 a month?

    At those rates, it'd be cheaper to lay your own fiber. Around the world. Heck, anybody with that kind of money probably owns their own telecom. Anyway, the best idea would be to drop Rogers.

    Go with a wireless plan which is honest about their data rates, and doesn't try to hide it in the T's & C's. Yes, the fine print tells all, but you shouldn't have to read the fine print in order to estimate costs. All costs should be up front. Any company that isn't this transparent isn't worth dealing with, period.

    I was thinking about this as well: why is a modem not voice? Isn't it the point of a modem to translate computer speak into little grunts and gurgles that the phone can transmit as sound, to be translated back into computer speak on the other end? How is this not voice, or at least audio? So what if I can get more than 1 megabit/sec out of this? The only reason why 56k was considered fastest speed available is because the FCC said so, not for any technical reason. So, instead of sounding like a baritone, the audio is sped up to sound like a chipmunk. It's the same information.

    Someone (not me, since I'm all thumbs and foggy-headed, to boot) is so going to hack this. Or we can just wait for 4G/WiMax/700MHz. Still, this whole voice/data wall is just waiting to be breached.

  44. Walter Francis
    Thumb Down

    @ Morely Dotes, where the heck do YOU live?

    Broadband is available everywhere I know of in the US, depends on how far out you are. If you're in the boonies, you can only get slower DSL, if you're in the city you get any varying speed of DSL or Cable modem service.

    There's not many places I know of that you just can't get broadband, and I don't exactly live in Silicone Valley. (Yes, I meant Silicone..)

  45. Alex

    inconsistent behaviour on Bell's part

    Other articles covering the story mention that the guy with the giant bill has received warnings from Bell when he was going to be billed an extra $100 over his regular rate. This time there was no warning that anything was out of the ordinary until the damage was done.

  46. foof
    Dead Vulture

    What's a mobe bill?

    Something like an duck bill? or some nation's currency?

    Anyway, did you hear about the guy that got hit with a $85000 cell bill?

  47. Dave

    Hmm.

    "When the customer downloaded the software to do so, a warning came up that said there would be additional data charges on top of the mobile browser plan."

    Because let's face it, when we're installing a bit of software and box pops up with lots of text and button saying "I agree", we all read every word of the text before hitting the button, don't we?

  48. Pie Eater

    Bill system problems?

    Works out to nearly $2/minute (though it's probably per Mb) for the entire month. Amazing that the billing system didn't cut him off. Most post-pay systems have limits based on usage patterns, at around 250% of the average usage.

  49. Peter Stern

    He might be an idiot, but...

    He might be an idiot for not reading the fine print, but one of the issues in Canada is the not-so-competitive mobile phone service market.... and price gouging on things like overage rates.

    All this guy needs to do is take his bill to the CRTC (Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission) and complain about PRICE GOUGING and there will be a lot of high level people at Bell Mobility that will have a very bad time after that... as they try to fight new regulations... like maybe a maximum amount allowed to be billed, irrelevant of use. Or maybe a cap on overage rates. Mobile phone companies make a killing on this in Canada. The CRTC could easily end this party.

    As it stands, the CRTC has excluded current mobile carriers from bidding on new bandwidth spectrum for mobile carrier use so that new companies can enter the Canadian market because of price gouging.

    Peter Stern

    Toronto, Canada

  50. ratfox Silver badge

    DON'T use Rogers

    Just don't. There is way too much fine print.

    It starts right from the moment where you read "CHEAP PLAN 20$ a month!"

    And reading the fine print, you see that after paying the plan, you need to pay

    an additional 7$ a month for "network access". It's like asking in a hotel

    how much a room is, being told that it's 100$, then having to pay 30$ more

    for "dayly rental of the room key"

    As for all the guys talking about personal responsibility, I wonder how often they

    read the EULA of the software on their computers. Face it, the day Microsoft

    adds a hidden fee in that, they'll end up legally owning the planet before

    anybody notices it.

  51. Les
    Alien

    The best bit..

    ..was a quote the weaselcorp, sorry, telco's spokesdroid gave to the Canadian media (http://www.cbc.ca/canada/calgary/story/2007/12/12/cell-phone.html)

    "Bell cannot monitor the activities of every one of its customers"

    Really? Must make it a bit tricky to send them bills every month.

  52. Keith
    Alien

    US Broadband

    There are huge swaths of the US that have no broadband outside of satellite - and even that is a very loose definition of broadband. I exited the ISP world early this year but I can safely say large parts of the midwest are no-man's land.

    Look at the US national maps for unlimited data offerings by cell providers, any provider. There's a pretty good correlation between no unlimited data and no landbased broadband.

    As to the Canadian Bell charges I would hope he gets good counsel - a reasonable person shouldn't expect that a $10 a month contract can lead to thousands of dollars of charges. Of course the Bell will charge outrageously, it's a company mandate to screw the clients. Anyone in the telco world will tell you similar horror stories of overbilling that were finally resolved in their favor.

  53. Will
    Stop

    No Mobe!

    No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe. No Mobe.

  54. Nexox Enigma

    @Walter Francis

    Have you ever been to Wyoming? Or Colorado? Or nearly any state that isn't on a coast?

    Even slow DSL can only go -so many miles from a telephone CO before it just doesn't work. And how many COs do you think there are in a state which doesn't even need an entire area code for its residents?

    I know people even in California, within half an hour driving distance of the capitol city who have to use sattelite broadband. They live so far from the phone CO that they could only get call quality good enough for 12kbit dialup before they switched to Dish.

    And that is in one of the most heavily populated states in the country. Go on a cross country driving vacation or something, because you clearly haven't got a grasp of how large and empty this place really is.

  55. C

    Faster than DSL

    This was a Bell Mobility phone. I'm pretty sure Bell Mobility has a CDMA network, and is probably using CDMA EV-DO, which allows data transfer rates up to 2.4Mbit, significantly faster than DSL in some areas (the fastest DSL I can get is 1.5Mbit, not too far from Seattle).

    I have a $10/month unlimited data plan from Sprint which really does allow unlimited data transfer (within reason - there are clauses about not using with servers, etc.). When I got the plan there was no clause about "Phone as Modem" use. That plan no longer exists, I pay about $40/month for a plan which would now cost around $150/month. Sprint unlimited "Phone as Modem" plans are now $60/month, 40MB plan is $40/month, $0.01/KB after that, with a $100 cap.

    I think it's safe to say our friendly Canadian, while possibly being a moron, is getting undeservedly screwed by Bell Mobility.

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    I hope he wins and it becomes a precedent

    These big companies have been stringing us along for long enough. Free should mean free - as in "Free Phone" should mean that if I simply want a phone I can get one without any other strings attached. If I have to buy a mobile telephone plan and I get a phone with it, it should be called a "Complimentary Phone", because it's not free.

    The same goes with "Unlimited", it should be, as the dictionary says:

    -----

    un·lim·it·ed

    1. not limited; unrestricted; unconfined: unlimited trade.

    2. boundless; infinite; vast: the unlimited skies.

    3. without any qualification or exception; unconditional.

    -----

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/unlimited

    That's the first thing that's wrong, the second one is distinguishing between data and data - they're the same. If his phone had a browser and a large (for a phone) memory, he could have downloaded, say a Linux DVD ISO image onto using his phone. Same amount of data, different rate. It's like saying you can only speak a certain language, or if you use a bluetooth headset you get charged another rate. Rubbish. Data is data, and his data was "Unlimited" - they should stick to their words (not the fine print).

    The third thing that's wrong is that the sharks probably had a buzzer go off when he hit $2,000, and probably every $2,000 after that, and they sat there grinning knowing that someone out there is either making them silly amounts of money (just like turning on a printer to print money) for nothing, or that they'll be able to sue someones arse to oblivion. Either way, they're the big ones preying on the little ones. Surely the humane thing to do would be to pick up the phone and give the guy a friendly phone call telling him that he's heading towards Poop Creek with a toothpick as a paddle. But they chose not to - they should pick up the bill for their own greed.

    I hope he wins; it's time the consumers, like you and me, gets treated like humans instead of a walking source of revenue.

    I'll get my coat because most of you would probably have sat there watching his bill rack up.. ;) ;) :D :D

  57. Stu
    Alien

    Credit Limits

    Having inadvertently run up a £300 phone bill in the first month I had a smart phone (didn't realise that it was costing me 10p every time I checked my e-mail - bloody IMAP over HTTPS...) I have some sympathy with the guy. These companies should be mandated to send you a text whenever you go over a "more than expected usage" limit, be it texts, calls, data, whatever, and should allow you to set a hard "credit limit" that you can only remove on a month-by-month basis when you actually hit it.

    The story carried on the BBC website explains that the guy in question claims that in the past the same provider had temporarily cut him off for going over $100 spend in a month - as a measure to prevent him from overspending. So in that case I think he has reasonable grounds to expect them to do the same again, which they clearly didn't. Good luck to him. Mobile data's too restrictive, and too expensive.

  58. Bill Bennett

    This is why...

    ...i like my 3 Skypephone so much.

    £5 a month for 1GB of USB modem goodness. Oh, and unlimited* free Skypeing too.

    *Subject to fair use policy.

  59. Scott

    Unlimited outlawed

    Down here in OZ the ACCC has issued statements to the effect that you are unable to use the term unlimited in advertising for plans. Even for plans that are shaped with no excess charges.

    While I agree with that it just means that the ISP took another word and twisted the meaning in the small print

    The previous best I had heard was a 13 K bill

  60. Christian Berger Silver badge

    But isn't it widely known

    But isn't it widely known that mobile phones are not just expensive but _E_X_P_E_N_S_I_V_E_ !!!

    I mean just look at the advertisements. A minute costs 10 cents. That's 4320 Eur a month an just for useless voice calls.

    Even the mobile operators understand that they are far to expensive and want to get rid of that image.

    So the best thing you could do is look at your monthly income. If that's more than, let's say 10000 Eur a month, you can consider getting a mobile phone, if not you are out of luck.

  61. robert

    LOL

    bell charges $0.05 per KB without some sort of feature or plan added on your phone service

  62. Paul Ryan

    The problem with gouging and unethical behaviour is international.

    There was recently a similar case here in New Zealand where someone got caught by the fine print, and the company was billing him for the last week's 'free' downloads, about NZ$85k. He estimated that it would be NZ$300k or more if they billed him for the entire month.

    The kicker was that he was using a prepaid phone, and was in the habit of putting between NZ$10 and NZ$20 onto his account per month. He assumed, naturally enough, that if he exceeded the amount on his phone then he wouldn't have any more wireless access. But despite the fact that the company in question, Vodaphone, shouldn't have allowed further access once the prepaid amount was gone, they still were going to bill him for the entire lot.

    They canceled his bill once a consumer rights TV program got onto the case on the victims behalf.

  63. JeffyPooh Silver badge

    To anyone using the word 'modem' in their post

    In reply, no.

    No, the mobes do not act like an old fashioned beeping and buzzing modem. There's no audio involved. It's all about USB interfaces and very high speed bits being sent through the air to the local cell tower.

  64. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Doofus

    The guy was a doofus - he should pay the whole bill. Then he should sue the carrier for several million for misleading advertising - "unlimited" means unlimited.

  65. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    what company

    in their right mind gives someone a $85,000 line of credit without collateral that's what they have done here they aren't going to get any money this is just hand waving stupidity on their part. Of course the amount is exorbitant hogwash as well it costs no where near that, it is worth no where near that, they might as well have just put any random number on the bill and mailed it. People who say the guy is dumb are also lacking common sense first we don't know the guy is dumb, second are you paying this data rate because if you are you are retarded.

  66. JP Strauss

    Unlimited usage...

    As in: "there is no limit to the amount payable".

  67. Steven Jones

    Modems and digital data

    This was prompted by JeffyPooh and his "To anyone using the word 'modem'" post.

    The fact is that pretty well all long distance high-speed data transmission systems use modems. That's even when digital is used the name. That included "Digital Phones", "Digital Subscriber Line" and "Digital Television" - teh service may be digital, but the transmission is analogue. For the long distance part of the connections the signals are modulated and demodulated using schemes such as Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM). GSM phones use a scheme called GMSK. Ethernet made use of PAM and so it goes on.

    High speed purely digital signals are constrained to very short runs such as those in computer systems buses. The reason is that true digital signals are prone to all sort of long distance effects including signal skewing, interference, signal spreading etc. The only mid/long distance true digital standards, like RS232 and RS423 are inherently slow due to these effects. Relatively high speed digital interfaces, like SCSI are highly distance limited. (Before people quibble, yes I know that the signals are analogue, but they are interpreted digitaly by thresholds, differentials, polarity or whatever).

    So in a very real sense a mobile phone includes a modem - that's how it communicates with the mast. In fact the journey that the data bits will take from the cellphone to the final destination will involve very many such modulation/demodulation steps. Quite possibly dozens. Of course that's not what the mobile phone company meant be using the cellphone as a modem here - they were just using it as a short hand term for how you connect a computer to the internet via the mobile phone.

    All of this is made possible by the combination of incredibly high speed DA & AD converters and the modern miracle of Digital Signal Processing (DSP). This latter is a unheralded miracle which is one of the half dozen most important technologies in modern computing and telecommunication industry.

  68. michael

    same happened here

    I ran up a £500 bill with o2 cos when I has working away from home I used my mobe (yes dam it MOBE) with a bluetoof connection as a mobile and got charged £4 per mb a lot of this was browsing the o2 site for detials of my traif (witch I never found) thouse anamated banners are bandwith heavy and the internet is ot setup on the princibloe you weill be paying for every bit transfered and b4 anyboady askes there was no warning till the bill and the near hart atack

  69. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Jeremy Davis

    Don't insult our intelligence. 3G GSM gives us the same kind of speed as EV-DO does, if not more. Just because digital mobile transmission is new to you lot in the US does not mean that it's new to us. GSM has been pretty damn good when it comes to data coverage, just because it's a pain in the ass to implement in the US because you lot use 1800 MHz for portable home phones, and they have to move all GSM transmission to 1900MHz, doesn't mean it's 'old' and crap compared to EV-DO.

  70. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    That Rogers charged him without warning...

    ... Is inexcusable. Orange and T-Mobile both warn you when you approach some pre-set limit. T-Mobile automatically sets one for new users, but doesn't tell you what it is until you get the message "It has not been possible to connect your call because you are over your call limit, please make a payment". And that's on a non-prepaid contract.

    If this guy was on a deal that established a pattern, and he got a new phone and the established pattern changed dramatically, it would make sense to give the guy a call and ask him what he was doing, in which case he probably would not even have had to pay $3000+ because the problem was averted in time!

    Sounds to me like the service provider knew this, knew that they could send him a fat bill and then hopefully get him to pay it. I wish him the best suing the bastards to high heaven and winning.

  71. J

    @Brent Gardner

    Regarding a credit limit, they will only monitor it if it is costing _them_ money. If he was roaming on someone else's network (causing that network to charge Rogers) he would have been cut off because there would be a real credit risk. His data use effectively cost them nothing in real dollars, it comes out of the base operating budget so they might as well just absorb the risk, there is none.

  72. Gianni Straniero
    Unhappy

    Why was he using his mobile?

    One detail The Register omits: Staniaszek works in an oilfield, i.e. the geographical centre of nowhere at all. Reuters spoke to his father:

    "He's working in the field sometimes, alone, in the shack. What to do? Drink vodka or go on the Internet?" Staniaszek senior told Reuters on Thursday from Calgary, Alberta.

    "Now it's $85,000 and nobody told him," he said.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSN1322682220071213

  73. Glenn
    Pirate

    Customers need be tested ... Smarter than phone ...

    I bought mine on ebay at a quarter of retail price, why cuz its original didn't have a clue. Do I use telus' exquisitely expensive data ? Not a bit. Why ? Because 1) I read the cost, 2) If I wanted to surf the web on a low res screen with 400mhz cpu I'd build a friggin time machine and go back to the 90's. The boy`s an idiot and so are the people he`s doing business with.

  74. pctechxp
    Thumb Down

    Why is anyone surprised he got charged?

    The kind of content you use on a PC requires a lot more bandwidth than your average WAP or 3GP compressed movie (the 3GP standard was designed to minimise bandwidth use)

    What a muppet!!

    The only question is why alarm bells did not go off at the carrier's billing department/network ops centre.

    It's mass dowmloading idiots like him and those on fixed connections that are choking the net.

    Down with P2P!

  75. Keith Williams
    Thumb Up

    @Lee Ward

    You forgot reason #3 for choosing option 1

    You don't use the mobile much, so the $35/mo (or more) is excessive to your needs, so you only spend $10/mo

  76. Matthew
    Thumb Down

    Stupidity all around.

    The guy's none too bright, but the Carrier company isn't any better. What's more, they actually may have an obligation under Alberta law, to pay attention and not let silly little bills like this happen.

    Alberta has an Act called the Fair Trading Act. Under this, if someone sells something to someone who had no use for the product, or could not be expected to pay, is liable. The sanctions can include criminal sanctions (if I remember right, it may only be a hefty fine), and can go up the management chain. A 60k monthly bill is pretty hard to expect someone to have the means to pay. Even if they are working in the Oilsands.

    Plus there's the whole Competition Tribunal, the CRTC, etc.

    Rogers and Bell sitting there saying "we can't monitor the activities of everyone" is disengenuous, they can tell me every billable action on my phone, complain when I exceed 65GB of data on my "Unlimited broadband". They're able to reliably track something for everyone. A 60k bill should have set off alarm bells at the telco. It didn't, so they have some responsibility here.

    They may not like it, but it's likely a required cost of doing business. Of course considering the market is pretty much a monopoly pricing model, the rest of Canada will wind up with his bill.

  77. JeffyPooh Silver badge

    @Steven Jones and 'modems'

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks for the clarification - which is perfectly correct. But I did choose my words carefully: "...an old fashioned beeping and buzzing modem. There's no audio involved. ..." I added the modifier 'old fashioned beeping and buzzing', and mentioned 'audio', specifically to address your point, in advance, because I saw it coming. In other words, we're in violent agreement.

    Several of the previous posters (Rigby, Reeves) mentioning 'modem' seemed to think that the data was carried over audio (implying that the carrier had no reason to charge any more than a voice call). I was trying to address that distinction. I guess not everyone is aware that some mobes can peak at something just over 3 Mbps.

    Cheers.

    This posting brought to you by the letters WiFi and EV-DO. I'm well past 9GB so far. That would be $450,000 under some data plans. I'm hoping to hit "one megabuck' (by some lunatic reckonings) in a single month.

  78. Shawn
    Stop

    From A Bell Employee

    There is a LOT of misinformation running rampant about this story

    First off; regarding MBUN (aka Unlimited Mobile Browser)

    This service is clearly labelled as *mobile browser* not a full webbrowser (such as you would find on a Blackberry or similar device)

    It normally costs $7/month

    But the story tells you the customer is paying the full $10 for his service which means he is using a PREPAID phone

    Tethering a prepaid phone as a modem is a huge no-no (it does state this right in the data section of your contract) and that is why he is being reamed out for the usage

    Also as most normal people point out even if he was allowed to tether his phone, there obviously is a huge differance between using it in that fashion vs using a small WAP based internet browser

    And yes I do work for Bell before anyone accuses me of bias but I think its very obvious this guy tried to abuse the system and is now crying he got caught doing it

  79. Shawn
    Stop

    His Legal Contract

    http://www.bell.ca/web/wireless/en/all_regions/pdfs/wls_legal/prepaid_legal.pdf

    This is what he agreed to (I personally think its pretty clear):

    USING CERTAIN FEATURES, SERVICES AND APPLICATIONS ON OR WITH YOUR

    DEVICE, AND DOWNLOADING CONTENT, MAY RESULT IN PER-KILOBYTE DATA

    TRANSPORT CHARGES. PLEASE ASK YOUR SALES REPRESENTATIVE OR GO TO

    (www.bell.ca/mobilebrowser for monthly and www.bell.ca/prepaidbrowser for prepaid) FOR

    EXAMPLES OF PER-USE DATA TRANSPORT CHARGES.

    You can subscribe to the Unlimited Mobile Browser Feature for unlimited mobile browser usage

    at a flat monthly fee, including the data transport services required to download ringtones,

    screensavers, games, applications, music, instant messaging, TV previews and clips, MobiTV,

    and for any other services using Mobile Browser for data transport. Without Unlimited Mobile

    Browser, data transport charges (currently $0.05/KB) will apply when you use any feature or

    service using data transport. For example: current average Kilobyte usage to check your

    horoscope = 10 KB (50¢), download a ringtone = up to 145 KB ($7.25) plus the cost of the

    ringtone (currently up to $4.00) or download a full track song = 1000 KB ($51.20) plus the cost of

    the song (e.g. $3). You acknowledge that without Unlimited Mobile Browser you are liable for and

    agree to pay Bell’s then current per kilobyte charges for data transport services.

    Even if you subscribe to Unlimited Mobile Browser, if you use your device as a modem for a PC

    or other device you will be charged additional data transport charges at Bell’s then current per

    kilobyte data transport rates. You acknowledge and agree to pay these charges.

    If you have activated a data device, you will be charged for data transmissions from or to the

    device (including through “tethering” the device to a PC or other device), such as sending and

    receiving e-mails, at Bell’s then current per kilobyte data transport rates. If you subscribe to a

    data plan, you will be charged additional per kilobyte rates as set out in the plan, for any data

    transport usage in excess of the data transport included in the monthly data plan fee. You

    acknowledge and agree to pay these charges. Additional data roaming charges may also apply,

    including to the use of the Unlimited Mobile Browser.

  80. Neil Anderson

    Ouch

    Whoa ... taser me now.

  81. JeffyPooh Silver badge

    To Shawn@Bell.ca

    The problem ~is~ the number ($0.05 per kilobyte), not the language. Write it as "$50,000 per GB" and it is perhaps more clear.

    If someone is selling lemonade for $1 per pL (picoliter), and someone wanders by and drinks one glass without realizing the asking price, there's still no way that the bill $100B would stand. They should pay $1 and leave.

    Bell should go ahead a sue the guy in Calgary. He will lose and the court will force him to pay. Probably about $75 which is all that amount of data is actually worth in that market (Alberta, Telus, $75 Connect unlimited plan*).

    (*available from Bell too by the way... but with much worse Ts & Cs).

    Not $3000. Not $5000, And certainly not $85,000.

    Seriously, Bell had better settle quietly before the Class Action lawyers get involved. Bell has got MUCH MORE to lose that the $85k. If the court agrees with common sense that their pricing is simply INSANE, then they could be forced to refund BILLIONS for all the price gouging over the years.

  82. Martin Pettersen
    Happy

    If he were from norway...

    I would've understood why he expected it to cover use with a computer.

    Telenor (one of the major operators in this country) charges $12.67 (70 NOK)

    maximum per day, i.e it counts $0.0026 per kb until it reaches $12.67, then

    stops counting. This is via a computer.

    Any other operator here would've just kept charging.

    I have managed to get 4-5GB downloaded with this, no problem, and no big

    surprises.

  83. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    hahaha

    Cant beleive that Bell (not Rogers, which some people seem to think is the telco in this story) allowed a bill to get that big. It is a clear example of what kind of company Bell is, a mean one, and a dedicated member of the "screw your customers as much as you can" school of business. By the way, Bell (and Telus) operate a CDMA network, whereas Rogers (and by extension Fido) operate a GSM network, and have HSDPA (aka 3g I beleive) networks in place. All other network providers (eg Virgin Mobile) are piggy-backing off of one network, which I beleive is the Bell one, because the phones Virgin Mobile sell dont use Sim Cards... anyway, I digress.

    For those getting excited about calling Canada "State-side" or not, the population of the USA does not matter. The fact is, Canada is geographically bigger than the USA. Canada has healthcare for everyone, not just those that can afford it. And to be honest, saying that Canada is "state-side" just goes to highlight the ignorance of the worlds perception of Canada. And no, I'm not Canadian! It must infuriate Americans who beleive bigger is better, when their neighbour country to the North is bigger than them. :)

  84. Dana W
    Stop

    No.

    "...maybe he can move to the US now he's passed the IQ test?"

    Please, no. We have enough stupid people already!

    We have a slightly used Republican administration we would like to get rid of. Take them off our hands and we will see what we can do.

  85. Byron Langslow
    Stop

    mobe

    mobe mobe mobe lappy mobe.

    Get the hell over it you stupid morons. You dont like it? GO READ A LESS INTELLIGENT IT (E-)RAG [SIC].

  86. Daniel Silver badge
    Flame

    @ Jeremy Davis

    HSDPA (for the civilised world i.e. Europe) = 3.6Mbps over GSM (real, available and working) and rising fast

    EV-DO (for the colonies) = 2Mbps (note: NOT the same as 2MBps), 3.1Mbps with revision A (ratified June 2007, theoretically available around now) *

    In short, GSM doesn't have EV-DO because it would be a step backward for us, not because we don't know how good (ahem) it is. Now run along and play nicely with the other kids...

    * Source: Radio Electronics, http://www.radio-electronics.com/info/cellulartelecomms/evdo/ev-do.php

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