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SaskTel: “Very Little That We Can Do” on Accidental Roaming Charges Near U.S. Border

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Wireless customers accruing accidental wireless roaming charges while living near the U.S. border is nothing new, but a recent case raised by a SaskTel customer has the president of the Consumers’ Association of Canada reminding everyone it remains a national problem.

SaskTel customer Kimberley Dietze, who lives near Alameda (about 32KM from North Dakota), says her Mi-Fi device caused excessed roaming data charges while she was at home, resulting in a message from her carrier she had surpassed her $100 data roaming limit, according to what she told radio station CJME.

Bruce Cran, president of the Consumers’ Association of Canada, says customers need “to be very vigilant with your bill,” noting customers have complained to the association for well over a decade over similar issues with other carriers (via The Canadian Press):

“We get complaints from the Pacific to the Atlantic on this issue.

[…]

“It happens anywhere along the border, or can happen, where the population is low, and the type of equipment maybe is a little old or else is inadequate in some other fashion,”

Cran believes wireless carrier should be required to put protections in place for customers, noting he experiences similar issues with Rogers near his home in Delta, BC, about 1 kilometre from the U.S. border.

SaskTel spokeswoman Darcee MacFarlane said accidental charges have long been an issue in rural areas along the Saskatchewan border, saying “There’s actually, to be perfectly frank, very little that we can do,” noting different factors impact signals and “It’s the nature of the wireless technology.”

Dietze said she received a one-time refund on her roaming charges by SaskTel, while the latter says it usually warns customers of these situations up front before they sign up for wireless service.

On the iPhone, data roaming is toggled off by default (Settings > Cellular > Data Roaming). I’m not sure if that’s the case for this particular customer’s Mi-Fi unit.

But as for randomly roaming onto a U.S. carrier for those living near the border—what can companies do to protect customers?

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  • Tim

    Whenever Fido jumps onto a US Carrier you get a text saying “Welcome to the United States…roaming charges apply..etc.” I actually blame the technologically illiterate in this case for the most part. I’m not sure how her specific mifi device relays it’s network and/or blocks data roaming, but anyone who doesn’t realize this on a phone is a bit behind the curve. Again, maybe there’s no way to tell when the mifi device jumps to US towers. Sasktel should then block American data by default, with an opt in process, but in all other cases…meh.

  • Chrome262

    How about getting rid of international roaming, at least to the states. They all make enough money that they could lower or eliminate the process. I remember when i was in the states I had ontario added as my local calling area to the rest of the US. its not like they couldn’t eliminate roaming all together. especially for those customers, they shouldn’t be charged at all, considering they are dealing with crappy old equipment and the newer stuff is over the boarder. Hell if they wanted to they could just added a fee to the monthly bill (not a large one) and still make money and not have customers worry.

  • Zapper

    Not sure how it is on other phones, but I live near the border and avoid this just by toggling off “automatic” under setting/carrier, then just choosing my provider manually. Easy fix.

  • FishTire

    The device can be set to use only a home network by modification of the network selection setting. Problem solved

  • Shorty_dammit

    Roaming is just as silly as long distance calling is. It should not exist anymore.

  • nwo1117

    All the carrier needs to do is add a roaming block to this customer’s account.

  • Anon

    This seems to be the opposite out here in BC, at least in Whiterock (as well as Blaine in the US). The Rogers signal is pretty strong in Blaine, WA, so I’m pretty sure US residence in that area are receiving similar problems lol.

  • slyrobber

    If the EU can do it why not us?oh right free trade must only benefit the already rich corporations how dare we the common worker drones expect to get any benefit out of it beyond pipe dreams of more “cheap labor” jobs. Just pay and shut up!!!

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