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
) 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.
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
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.