Why data roaming will cost you way too much (even when you don’t use it)

In October I took a trip to the US Midwest for Internet Research 10. I had heard horror stories from friends and the internets about surprise $3000+ roaming bills. So, of course, checked to make sure my data roaming on my iPhone was set to off (you know, that setting where it clearly says “turn this off to avoid substantial roaming fees”) as I got on the plane and stashed my phone, not even wanting to use it to make calls that would cost me almost $2 a minute. But you know how this story ends.

Even though I had data roaming set to off and even though I didn’t check my email or use Google maps or do anything else that would’ve been super helpful on my trip in an unfamiliar city, I got charged over $300 for data roaming by Fido on behalf of AT&T. I explained that, as he could see from my call record, I didn’t use my phone at all during the trip (not even for calls) and half the time the battery was dead. Some of the data charges were even at 1am (while I was sleeping!) The customer service guy said that turning data roaming off wasn’t enough and I had to turn 3G off as well and “that this was a well known fact.” (In reality, it’s total BS). I asked that they do an investigation and find out exactly what I was supposedly downloading, but he told me that this was not possible. So, I was basically being charged $300 for a service without my consent or knowledge, without any ability to see how this actually happened. The kicker is that in total, the $300 charge was for only about 50 megs of data use. Think about how ridiculous that is.

Anyway, after about 45 minutes of arguing and going back and forth with the customer service guy’s supervisor (who also agreed it was my fault for not turning of 3G), I was offered a 50% refund. I said I was not going to pay any amount for a service I didn’t use and asked to speak to the supervisor. I was put on hold for another 10 minutes, and was then informed I would be called back later.

Twitter-enabled public shaming

12 hours later, and I still haven’t heard back from anyone at Fido, so I decide to do some research (with the help of the awesome folks on the HacklabTO mailing list, my local hacker collective) and start posting on Twitter. After my first post, to my surprise, a Fido rep starts messaging me from a group Fido account (@fidomobile) on and then individually (@rogersmary) follows my account. By this point, a few people are retweeting my post and I decide to tell CBC radio’s Spark (@sparkcbc). I also write a message to @rogersmary about a story in the LA Times about the same situation happening to a bunch of other people. About an hour later, I get a call from Asja Asanovic at the “Office of the President” at Fido. She is very apologetic and nice and helpful and reverses all the charges, and says she will “start an investigation with Apple.” But, as far as preventing this from happening again, she has no suggestions. I can either turn off the internet entirely (which defeats the purpose of having an iPhone) turn off voice AND data roaming entirely (making my phone useless outside of Toronto) or just leave my phone in Canada when I travel. Three completely ridiculous “solutions” for an iPhone user.

I’m happy it’s resolved, but I am very unhappy at how much time/stress Fido/Apple’s mistake cost me. I’m also very disappointed that I didn’t have my issue fixed right away when I first called Fido. Instead, Fido only treated me reasonably after I publicly shamed them on Twitter. It is wrong that I get better service from an unadvertised customer service rep on Twitter, rather than 1800 number provided on their site, and only because I made a big stink. How many other people have been screwed by this? Apparently a bunch.

So, what is the main takeaway from my lil adventure?

1.) Data roaming charges completely unfair and do not reflect their actual cost (how can the CRTC allow telecoms to charge us up to $30, 000.00 per Gb?)

2.) There is something very fucky about the iPhone data roaming on/off switch (See the Apple forums and LA Times). Be careful when traveling internationally.

3.) Sadly, the strategic use of social media (and your local hacker collective) is the only real way of getting proper, reasonable service from Canada’s ridiculous wireless oligopoly.

Why data roaming will cost you way too much (even when you don’t use it)

30 Responses

  1. Thank goodness the newer blackberries with wifi don’t seem to have this problem. A dedicated “data off while roaming” option, along with a general “data off” option on the phones work wonders to avoid roaming charges, and avoid communications in general beyond use as a phone.

    Was in the US. Turned off roaming data, but had the Wifi going. Free wifi spots = win.

    Some apps (including google’s!) insisted on using a 3G connection instead of Wifi (fail), so that was a shame, but the rest of the phone worked quite nicely.

    Krupo August 19, 2010 at 7:06 am #
  2. FIDO HAS SCREWD ME WITH a 1600$$$ BILL for DATA roaming ON DEC 13th 2010 !!!!!!!!!!!! I DO NOT HAVE A DATA plan on my phone!!!! was assuming I was using FREE WIFI with my 2 overlays in Seattle and Amsterdam!!!
    So far been on the [phone with them for 3 days!!!!!! everyone is telling me different things and ONE GUY, TY has clearly LIED!!!!!!! NO WAY TO GET HOLD OF A MANAGER!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SOOO PISSED!!!!
    Please contact me if this has happen to you and lets DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!!

    Olya December 17, 2010 at 7:19 am #
  3. Similar storie here , My sister just received a call from FIDO , informing her of a 1000$ bill.
    She was in the US in December for a week and used the WIFI in the hotel only.
    She doesn’t even have a 3G plan.

    I m not sure what to do , If anyone has any idea or advice please share.
    Thanks For your help.

    X January 18, 2011 at 11:48 pm #
  4. I am in the same s**t problem. I want a full refund too!! They always point the blame to us consumers and force it onto us to pay for something we never used. When we ask them to investigate, they just simply say that the charges are from our sim card, so like it or not, we have to pay on DUE DATE. I did not realize that there are so many of this same problem out there. I thought I was the only one. The biggest problem is FIDO is not even trying to resolve our problems appropriately…. and they say that they care!!

    Ada March 11, 2011 at 8:04 am #
  5. i m alo in the same situation with fido i ve charged like 900 $ FIDO doesent wann do anything!!!!!!!

    channelle April 7, 2011 at 2:02 pm #
  6. I have the same problem with FIDO. I do not have a data plan and my data roaming OFF during trip to German and Italy and I received bill $500. They charge 0.03 per Kb. Its’ unbelievable. What I have to do in this situation any advice. Thank you

    Nik May 4, 2011 at 5:54 am #
  7. I spent a week in Miami and used only wifi and got charged for 100mb, Fido bill came in with $650.00 on it.

    FuckFido May 28, 2011 at 12:47 pm #
  8. I am in the same situation and I am going to get charged $350 in the next bill for 15.9MB use…I called them today and notified them that i will be charged in the next bill and they said they wrote it down and will do something about it once it shows up in the bill. Hope they help me out. Regardless, I am up for some sort of a twitter or youtube movement against fido anyday

    Saria June 3, 2011 at 8:18 am #
  9. $30,000 per GB ($0.03 per kB) is a joke.


    PS June 29, 2011 at 6:13 am #
  10. Fido was extremely rude and willing to lose customers for this. I got charged 200$ for data which I didn’t use when I went to Florida for 3 days!!!! She said that I could cancel but would come out to the same things cause I still had to pay it!!!

    Irene July 13, 2011 at 11:36 am #
  11. I have the same situation at last month bill. I am sure I turn off all my data roaming setting and related connected and switch to airplane mode too. But I got the charge for 65M with CAD 380 dollars for US data roaming. Then I called to Fido customer service the said I have to know the possibility and do something like to purchase their special traveling Add-on.
    I think I will call them again and try to ask them to waive the bill. Does anyone have any suggestion?

    JC July 18, 2011 at 11:29 pm #
  12. AVOID FIDO! I HAVE NEVER HAD DATA SERVICES WITH FIDO, I only ever and always use WiFi, and my recent bill shows approx. $1,400 worth of US data roaming charges between June and July 2011 my solution is to just leave Fido altogether. I’ve also been a Fido customer since 2004 and since Rogers took over it’s been worse and worse. So get this – I don’t have a data plan with Fido! I’ve never paid to connect to data or never asked them to provide me with data. I use WiFi only. So apparently (and maybe something changed with the system) but for a few days in June and then for 1 transaction in July when I was in transit in the US when I thought I was connected to my hotel or apartment WiFi apparently AT&T roaming 3G kicked in again. REMEMBER – I have never had a data plan with Fido, nor have I even paid for one of the day or week passes in Canada. One transaction alone (on June 30/July 1) for 32 megs was billed at over $900! One transaction at a time when I was in bed in a hotel connected I thought to WiFi. REMEMBER – I HAVE NEVER HAD A DATA PLAN WITH FIDO EVER! I HAVE NEVER PAID FOR DATA SERVICES. I HAVE NEVER ASKED FOR DATA SERVICES. I was traveling on another continent for the month of July and didn’t see the charges on my bill until August. I called in specifically about the single $900 charge because it is what stood out as OUTRAGEOUS on the bill. They told me it was my fault and the charges were legitimate because I had used the services. Lots and lot of really annoying boiler plate customer “non-service” until after one hour on the phone I got a sympathetic ear. After one hour on the phone they finally gave me the privilege of paying $62 for a data pack and they gave me a “credit” of $833 back on the account (after the sticker shock of fighting against a $900 charge that you never ever requested you are relieved to have any concession). BUT THERE IS MORE, and this is important. In there own language and belief, I am still at fault. Therefore they did not reverse, cancel or remove the original charge which actually means they think they did not admit any fault or responsibility and actually did me a big huge favour for which I should be grateful. By “accepting” their offer, again in their own special language, I was accepting that the deal was closed and they would never, ever do anything special for me ever again. THEN THE KICKER, at the end of the call the sympathetic CSR mentioned that she also saw approximately $450 worth of additional type charges on my account from in June. (REMEMBER according to FIDO that because I “accepted” their resolution for the single $900 I was no longer entitled to even a discussion regarding the additional charges that resulted from the same root problem.) So today, after my account was suspended for non-payment and still at a balance of about $1,000 because I am contesting almost half of that account and therefore won’t pay the amount I don’t believe is owing I spent 3 hours (YES THREE HOURS) on the phone again being told that my logic was flawed, I am wrong, they can’t and won’t discuss the other charges with me and it’s all my fault. I asked three reps to shut down my account and at 2 hours on the phone was told they couldn’t do that because the department to close accounts was closed. I then got a fifth reconciliatory CSR who offered the $100 deduction (which I took) and hopes I’ll stay with FIDO (she only did this because I told her I want to get as far away from FIDO as possible and am switching carriers tomorrow). NOT A CHANCE WILL I STAY WITH FIDO. They refused to offer me the same resolution for the earlier transaction that have the same root cause as the single transaction they did “credit” back to me because it’s my fault and because they say they don’t ever have to do anything for me ever again. I DON’T KNOW HOW ROGERS THINKS THEY CAN STAY IN BUSINESS WHEN THEY CONTINUE TO TREAT CUSTOMERS THIS WAY. I HAVE NEVER HAD A DATA PLAN WITH FIDO. 3G KICKED IN WHEN I WAS IN THE U.S. ON ROAMING WITHOUT MY CONSENT AND FIDO CHARGED ME $30/mb. Long story short – avoid FIDO and ROGERs totally! I’m switching to Wind or Mobilicity as soon as I can get to an outlet.

    global citizen August 17, 2011 at 1:00 pm #
  13. I’ve had issues with fido since I switched last year. I’ve spent hours on the phone since, trying to resolve the mistakes their system made, or more likely the their “knowledgeable” employees. I’ve signed up for data plan from day 1, but for some reason they didn’t turn it on right away, as they said, so within first 15 minutes of using my phone i was already charged $66. Next day my account was suspended due to goin over my limit ($200). After a conversation with multiple reps I got the refund and my service was restored, I asked for a Flex Data plan, that in case I go over my monthly limit of 500MB I would be charged additional $5 to go up a level to 1GB plan. I was under impression it works as they promised, but in reality it ended up just a promise. I was charged per MB for any overages i’ve had over last 10 month, an I just found out today that no one ever even left notes regarding this conversation about switching to flexPlan. They offered me a credit of $25 as good gesture instead of refunding me the difference which luckily for me was not that big. The reason for my reply here is that I was recently in U.S. for 2 days, and my service was suspended again because I was billed for 76 MB of data total of $500 ($0.006/kb). I admit i used the map 2-3 times, but where did the 76 MB come from? I made sure I turned off all apps, location services and other junk that can drain the kb, I even tried to call to activate the U.S. data pack but the office was closed on 1st of july. So I used data to the minimum only when i really needed a map. Because all these little screw up happend to me in the past I just don’t trust fido with anything, and until some one proves to me that I really used up 76MB in 2 days then I’ll pay for it. In the mean time I’m really looking forward to switch elsewhere, just not sure where. If anyone has good suggestions please let me know. And if you happened to be stuck with fido, make sure to triple check what you have included in your services before you use them.

    AM July 8, 2012 at 7:11 am #
  14. Hey fellow roamers! I think its time to get together.obviously Fido is not going to listen to each one of our stories and do NOTHING .but what can we do as a group> need something done by consumer protection for all this scamming! even reporting on carriers doesnt help if no gov,law etc. to force them to be honest.

    louise July 27, 2012 at 12:35 am #
  15. I am billed on a ridiculious Data roaming charges of $711.00…omg for what?
    i went to usa for 3 days, my roaming data feature was Turned off. what the hell is this?
    what am i suppose to say i am so confused……please help me…………..

    shane September 24, 2012 at 1:03 pm #
  16. One doesn’t need to have a data plan with Fido (not sure about others) to use data with an iPhone, at least. That’s the reason they have for different charges for those folks with a data plan and those without one. I’m not saying that their charges are at all reasonable, however. Exactly the opposite is true. I was just travelling in Europe for 2 weeks, used 10 MB of data finding my way in a strange city because my wifi “broke” (greyed-out ON button) on my iPhone. Came back home, went to Apple store and they replaced my phone. Now I got the phone bill from Fido. $30,000/GB is _absolutely_ ridiculous. I don’t have (and have never had) a data plan, and neither 3G nor cell data were on for the rest of the trip — just the 2 days I was in the strange city. Virgin currently has $8/MB international roaming, but that’s still a steep $8000/GB. All Cdn carriers suck for pricing.

    AB October 31, 2012 at 12:45 pm #
  17. I have been charged $1600 for 5 days in NC and did not use my phone. I spoke to Fido reps and they also were very rude. They finally agreed to charge me 50% of the roaming charges. I thought the situation was somewhat resolved until I received this month’s bill for $1400. They omitted to tell me that there were apparently more charges incurred on this 5 day trip.
    Again they were very rude. I am still awaiting a call back.

    Diana December 8, 2012 at 3:59 am #
  18. fido , is charging me 930 dolars for data i didnt use in MEXICO it is unreal , unfair, i do not want to pay this amount of money , I can not afford it, this is ridicioulous… i need help , please someone help me…..

    felipe December 18, 2012 at 11:05 am #
  19. Fido charged me $800 for data roaming…that’s excessive for a data charge..had I known it would cost me like that , I could have turned off my iphone. Who would want to pay such charges? It was my first time to enter the border(US) with my iphone, was using the map for just like 5-10 mins. and I got charged for 77MB=$470!!!! How come it’s 77 MB?
    After 10 days, I went to Mexico, again, no warning from Fido that I entered another country and would be charge if I used data. 9MB=300!!! haven’t used my phone, but It’s turned on(as a clock, got no watch that’s why). Had they warned me, (ie sending sms) that I would be charge then I could have turned off my phone. I think that Fido is trapping ignorant customers like me to scam huge $$$$!!! This should stop!

    gie December 28, 2012 at 3:52 am #
  20. Ditto Ditto nearly 600.00 in roaming charges hardly used phone turned off roaming – FIDO are not budging…starting to tweet they are not backing down on how this is my fault. First bill I called them turned off ROAMING double checked to make sure as I had done the first time. Just got another bill for $198.00 Hardly used phone. tweet me at: @musivision_logo Join me in this tweet quest for immediate cancellation of charges or I continue to tweet…you in???
    @fidomobile, @rogersmary, @sparkcbc


    LaurieG January 5, 2013 at 2:27 am #
  21. I lost my sim card on my trip to China. So I came back to Canada, I went a fido kiosk to buy a new one. I just wanted to buy a new sim card, but the sales clerk told me that I should just call fido and receive a new one for free. When I got home I gave Fido a call, but it turns out there are no free sim cards. I also asked to check if anyone has been using my account and stop anyone from using my account. Good news is that it turns out no one was using my account. Unfortunately, from the 5 days between making that call and getting a new sim card, 165 dollars worth of data roaming chargers have been made on my account. I called fido and after 50 minutes, most of which was listening to elevator music, the fido representatives said she could only offer me a 20 percent discount. I told them I was not even at that country anymore so there was no way I could have made those charges. Plus, when I called fido a few days earlier, I told them I lost my sim card and to stop anyone else from using my account. It turns out that fido representative did not even do her job. Based on the Fido website, once you tell fido that you lost your sim card, they should disactivate the sim card right away(http://www.fido.ca/web/content/phonewarranty/lost_stolen_phone).I hate being forced to pay, but what I detest even more is paying for something I didn’t do. Off to Fido to argue some more.

    Jason February 13, 2013 at 10:20 pm #
  22. I dont know about other countries, but in Canada these companies do this because they are not regulated by the CRTC. Which means any disputes can only be handled through the phone company itself. According to the CRTC website, if you’re unable to resolve your dispute you can contact Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunication Services (CCTS) and the Canada’s Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA). Hopefully if they get enough complaints to drive them crazy, they’ll actually do something to prevent these cell companies from defrauding the consumer. Data roaming charges with no data plan, how is that possible? Why should you be responsible for issues with their network?

    Didi February 17, 2013 at 12:40 pm #
  23. Fuck that Fido.
    I’ve disconnected my service for 2 times, because I’d late my bill payment for a half month.
    That’s so annoying. Fido called and asked me that when I could pay for my bill. Then I told him I could pay in the end of the month. It was $130.0
    I paid, but fido need to charge $25 for reconnect my service.

    Tutu March 18, 2013 at 6:22 am #
  24. I’ve been customer in here for long time. I paid much more money for a net however I didn’t use it. So fido has this problem and sucks millions of dollars from their customers.

    Tutu March 18, 2013 at 6:26 am #
  25. I hate fido company and fido customer services.
    I’ve seen that rude customer service men for long time. Totally rude like women, but I haven’t seen women like these rude guys in fido customer service yet.

    I promise, when my contract finish, I’d happy to cancel my all contact from the fido.

    I’m sorry my grammar, but I hope you understood what I mean about it.

    Thanks for read

    Tutu March 18, 2013 at 6:34 am #
  26. I hate fido company and fido customer services.
    I’ve seen that rude customer service men for long time. Totally rude like women, but I haven’t seen women like these rude guys in fido customer service yet.

    I promise, when my contract finish, I’d happy to cancel my all contact from the fido.

    I’m sorry my grammar, but I hope you understood what I mean about it.

    Tutu March 18, 2013 at 6:36 am #
  27. I think what is happening here is that companies like Fido are stuck between a rock and a hard place. The phones (starting with the Iphone) are not stopping the data roaming and the provider you are roaming with basically provides the requested service. If it doesnt turnoff the data roaming Apple should remove this feature in the settings.

    As the guy said when roaming TURN OFF ALL DATA (3G). No need for Airplane mode but turn off all data. If the Iphone asks you if you want to turn on data say no and continue to check the settings to make sure it hasn’t turned on by itself.

    johnnyC April 23, 2013 at 7:15 am #
  28. I was In England for 2 weeks, did not know about switching off data roaming etc and hardly used my phone, $800 bill when I got back to Canada, after speaking to two different people at Fido, they reduced It to $600……..Fido can kiss my @#$%^ and stick there service where the sun don’t shine.

    Cooper May 27, 2013 at 9:28 am #
  29. I do have a 25$ data plan for Canada . But when I travelled a while ago to the US i called Rogers who advised me to get a 15 minute US roaming phone plan on my iPhone. On returning I noticed a 300$ charge for data roaming ( I used data for maps) . They explained that the reason was that I didn’t have a US data plan but they added it retroactively and was charged only 75$. Since then I call Rogers when I travel. I put my phone on airplane mode mostly. Also I did not take a data plan for my cruise in Europe and used wifi only in Greece and Italy. I did not get charged except for a phone call which was on 3g for 5 minutes. On the cruise i used the ship’s wifi which wS expensive but I could check my emails once or twice.. This was last summer so it may be different today. I use The app Roamaside gor calls in Europe as long as I have a wifi connection.

    Val Marie May 29, 2013 at 6:08 am #
  30. Lets put this on facebook and start/join a Fido sucks group.

    prairiejazz July 23, 2013 at 2:21 am #

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