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Mythbusters' Savage The Latest Socked With Huge 3G Bill
Just maybe the user high-bill notification process needs improvement?
by Karl Bode 05:17PM Friday Jun 26 2009
It's been a few months since the last time a mobile broadband user received a roaming bandwidth bill that required a second mortgage, so we were clearly overdue. In this latest instance though the impacted customer was Adam Savage from the TV show Mythbusters, who's spent the day on Twitter complaining (via Techdirt) that AT&T has charged him $11,000 for using mobile data while on a trip to Canada. That's actually low compared to other stories.

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Usually there's a compassionate and sweet contingent of our users that argue consumers are stupid and deserve bankruptcy for not being able to navigate AT&T's billing -- though Savage is anything but stupid and was pretty clearly aware of the overages. He's arguing that he didn't consume the 9 gigabytes AT&T claims and like Verizon, AT&T's math may be a little fuzzy when it gets down to the sub-penny level.

While users should read their contracts and understand AT&T's overage fees and roaming surcharges, clearly there's a disconnect happening somewhere in the customer education and alert process that needs fixing.

Right now we know that AT&T not only offers a bandwidth consumption tool, but they also often send users an SMS should their account balances start to get silly. Except in at least one instance, we've seen AT&T try to send that SMS alert to a data card not configured to receive it. Perhaps carriers need to repeatedly call the user when spending variates drastically from a norm (as with credit card companies), or implement an automatic "walled garden" account lock like those used with spam trojan-infected broadband users.

Surely charging users the equivalent of the GDP of small countries for bandwidth is a profitable enterprise, but that doesn't mean carriers can't try just a little bit harder to prevent such bills. On the plus side, at least Savage had his service suspended before the bill became truly extraterrestrial in nature, something that didn't happen with a number of customers in the same predicament (like this guy).

This endless stream of stories about insane bills is only going to get worse as carriers start offering subsidized netbooks with 3G connections to consumers unfamiliar with caps and overages (or even what a gigabyte is). Ultimately, carriers might want to do something about helping consumers through this process before an Attorney General in a state with tough consumer protection laws picks this up as his or her pet project.

Update: AT&T sends us an e-mail saying they're working with Adam right now to resolve the issue.


119 comments .. click to read

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cameronsfx

join:2009-01-08
Panama City, FL

3 recommendations

reply to banditws6

Re: Hardly surprising...

I know Obama was shocked his Blackberry didn't work in Saudi Arabia.

Yes, consumers are stupid. If they were smart, no one would pay $15,000 for a handbag or $80,000 for a GM car.

If voters were smart, they wouldn't have elected Stuart Smally either. Or Obama.



DOStradamus
MVM
join:2003-11-04
Healdsburg, CA

2 recommendations

reply to Jodokast96

Re: Myth BUSTED

Here's the core of the problem... Ever hear some Congressman or State legislator say something on the news that makes you say "How'd he EVER get in office... you'd have to be a complete, f-***ing IDIOT to cast a vote for him!"?

He's just looking out for his core constituency! There's a *lot* of idiots out there, and we allow them all to vote.

Q: What do you get when you form a majority coalition of idiots, authoritarian leftists, and the corrupt or corruptible?

A. California

-NK

--
It's absolutely certain that any given database will eventually corrupt itself -- that's why we make backups.

Too much data in one place is absolutely corrupting -- that's why we have the Second Amendment!



funchords
Hello
Premium,MVM
join:2001-03-11
Yarmouth Port, MA
kudos:6

1 edit

3 recommendations

reply to Maccawolf

said by Maccawolf:

I have no sympathy for him.
That says volumes about you and nothing about him.

said by Maccawolf:

He should READ the TOC just like everyone else.
My guess is that he read the TOC just like everyone else, which is to say that he either didn't read it or understand it because it was too long or too dense. Those things aren't meant for consumers to read, they're meant to protect the carrier from claims.

said by Maccawolf:

I don't know about anyone else, but I don't want to live in a nanny state where THEY look after me to keep me from doing something STUPID.
Be sure to wear your seat belt.

Surprise charges on telecom bills is very similar to the surprises folks would see on consumer loans. This is exactly the reason why loan applications have that big disclosure box giving out the key rates and fees in easy-to-read font. It's a useful tool.

These laws aren't there to protect you from yourself, they're there to protect you from the acts of others that just take advantage of the fact that you're a human being minding his own business.
--
Robb Topolski -= funchords.com =- District of Columbia -- KJ7RL

jjeffeory

join:2002-12-04
USA

2 recommendations

reply to Maccawolf

said by Maccawolf:

I have no sympathy for him. He should READ the TOC just like everyone else. I don't know about anyone else, but I don't want to live in a nanny state where THEY look after me to keep me from doing something STUPID.
Too late!


Maccawolf
Premium
join:2001-02-20
Hillsdale, NJ

2 recommendations

I have no sympathy for him. He should READ the TOC just like everyone else. I don't know about anyone else, but I don't want to live in a nanny state where THEY look after me to keep me from doing something STUPID.
--
Mom and Crockett...... I miss you both!