Received in early October 2011, Celina Aarons of Florida was “crying and shaking” after ripping open her 43-page T-Mobile bill for the month that totaled over $200,000 in wireless charges. While Aarons wasn’t directly responsible for racking up the charges, she did authorize one of her brothers to use the account during a vacation to Canada. The brother, Shamir, is legally deaf and communicates entirely through text messaging. Shamir texted over 2,000 times during the trip at a rate of $0.20 per text message which is T-Mobile’s international messaging rate. However, Shamir also downloaded and watched plenty of Web video which helped drive the bill to the huge amount.
T-Mobile charges $10 per MB of data while traveling abroad, thus Shamir could have hypothetically downloaded about 20,000 MB of video to reach the $200,000 mark. That’s the equivalent of approximately 2,000 YouTube videos lasting five minutes each. However, it’s more likely that Shamir was watching entire movies and television shows off a streaming service like Netflix to drive up the bill in combination with many other factors. T-Mobile did attempt to contact Shamir’s phone through text messaging offering data roaming warnings at $50, $100, $200 and $500 marks.
Distraught by the bill, Aarons sought the help of a local television news network and T-Mobile got in touch with Aarons after the segment aired. Knowing that the company would never collect on such an astronomical bill, T-Mobile reduced the bill by nearly 99 percent and gave Aarons six months to pay off the new balance of $2,500. The typical monthly bill for Aarons is around $175. In agreement with the FCC, the CTIA wireless association recently agreed to help customers avoid insanely high bills by warning consumers when approaching monthly limits for data, text, roaming and voice plans. All wireless providers have been given a year to create a warning system for at least two of the four plans and an additional six months to implement it for all four aspects of cell phone ownership.