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Canadian couple's smartphone runs up thousands in data fees

updated 12:40 pm EST, Wed March 2, 2011

Being charged even when phone is off

A couple in Merritt, British Columbia, claims that Bell Canada has overcharged them thousands of dollars for the data plan on their Samsung Galaxy smartphone. Since signing up in October, Daniel and Kate Methot have been billed more than $5,000, mostly in data charges that they say are in error. The couple has taken steps to reduce their data usage, such as turning the phone off when not in use and deleting apps, but the bills keep growing. December's bill was over $3,515 ($3,618 USD) - including one 24-hour period that the Methots purportedly used 30 hours of data.

The Methots say that it is impossible that they have spent hundreds of hours surfing the internet on their phone because they have an infant daughter and are running their own business. Bell Canada suggested that someone else may be running up their bill by tapping into the phone's mobile hotspot feature. Daniel Methot says that's not the answer, since the charges are assessed at times when the phone is shut off.

The company has been unable to explain the reason for the discrepancy. At one point, a Bell representative told Daniel Methot that the errors were caused by a "known" software problem on Bell's end that caused data usage to be billed at the wrong rate. The Methots received a credit, but just days later their new bill arrived with $1,204 in new charges.

According to Bell spokesperson Jason Laszlo, the Methots were not charged the incorrect rate for data, but that they were being charged for data that they claim they never actually used. An intensive technical investigation is underway to determine the exact cause of the problem. Bell has offered to cancel the remainder of the Methots' contract and waive their fees.

Howard Maker, Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services, says the agency received more than 1,900 complaints about wireless providers last year. Forty percent of the complaints were about overcharging. Maker said data charges are problematic because many consumers are not aware of their usage. Maker suggests that smartphone users use an app to track their data usage so they have evidence if they need to dispute a bill. [via CBC News]

by MacNN Staff



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