Teen Racks Up $8000 in Premium Texts After Koodo Partner’s Billing Cap Fails

Another day, and another story of a massive cellphone bill incurred by a consumer.

Koodo, the lower cost cellphone carrier owned by Telus, recently had an issue over their billing cap protections when it comes to premium text messages. These are the messages that cost users up to a few dollars or more when they enter their phone numbers to subscribe to services such as ‘joke of the day’ and such.

In this case, 19-year-old Brandon Kobza, a former foster child with fetal alcohol syndrome and other disabilities, racked up an $8000 premium text bill from Koodo. He thought he was exchanging texts with a would-be girlfriend through a premium text dating site, on the recommendation from a friend, reports the CBC’s Go Public:

“She had told me that she would meet me maybe in July…once we were ready,” said 19-year-old Brandon Kobza. “I just feel ripped off. With my disability, I only get $900 a month. That’s not enough to even pay like a portion of [the bill].”

Kobza obtained his cellphone via Ben Woodman, a church youth worker from Burnaby. Woodman signed up a phone under his name to give to Kobza to use, as the latter did not qualify for a cellphone contract. Woodman did his due diligence with Koodo to ensure unlimited texting would be available on the phone to Kobza without any other charges–except that did not cover premium text messages.

When the $8,243.06 bill arrived, both Kobza and Woodman were shocked. Koodo was contacted and they agreed to take off 80% of the bill. That’s when Woodman contacted Kathy Tomlinson from CBC’s investigative news segment, Go Public.

Tomlinson’s investigation resulted in mixed messages from Koodo. One kiosk told her Koodo doesn’t collect money from premium text messages, which was exactly what Woodman was told when he asked too. The official word from Koodo was they do take a percentage of premium texts, and the entire bill should have been canceled since the premium text provider’s $500 billing cap failed to kick in:

“We have investigated what occurred here, and it seems some errors have been made. We’re taking steps to correct those immediately,” Banderk said.

“When the customer called us to complain, the first Koodo agent he spoke should have forgiven the entire bill…That didn’t happen.”

Koodo apologized for the billing error, removed the charges and noted they will soon implement a future service to block premium texts. The Public Interest Advocacy Centre in Ottawa notes carriers are supposed to regulate premium texts but consumers have continued to lodge numerous complaints, which hints not enough is being done to protect consumers. Rogers implemented a new program to block or cap premium texts last December, and is the only carrier to offer such protection.

Why do we keep hearing about these billing horror stories? Who’s ultimately responsible here? The carrier or the customer?

[via CBC]

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  • MiguelSmith28994

    Usually it is the customer at fault (when they go internationally and make hundreds of minutes of calls, and then act surprised when they receive a huge bill).

    Here it looks to be the premium text companies, weird that their supposed “cap” didn’t kick in. I would assume it’s something the carriers never see originally, and it would just go back and forth between the customer and premium text company mainly. Although the customer does have the rare condition, it’s still unfortunate (no one would expect those premium messages to be free…)

  • bantb1

    the customer is always responsible,,,people need to stop taking advantage of these big companies who run a wireless business and pretending to be stupid when they get a large cell phone bill.  When people make a mistake they need to man up and take a hold of the responsibilities of the mistakes that they have made.  Read the fine print when sending and/or receiving texts.

  • Theused

    All I gotta say is I really hope they still charge him at least the $500 that they should have cap’d it at.

    These premium services should be stoped completely or billed to a credit card rather than a phone bill. I’m in the industry and I deal with this crap everyday.

    people need to start taking responsibility for their own shit and stop blaming the providers.

  • Werdner

    I hate how they have to mention that the child has a disability, web though it’s irrelevant to the story.

    So is it Kobza or Kobra? You seem to have had it mixed up

  • Kodza. Fixed. Thx.

  • *Kobza

  • xxJDxx

    I agree that we should put a stop to any company being able to bill you to your cell phone bill. Those types of charges are intentionally misleading and all those “joke a day” websites are counting on peoples ignorance to turn a proft. I do think that people need to take personal responsibility in a lot of situations, but these types of things are intentionally misleading and basically a scam…

  • xxJDxx

    LOL. It’s crazy to me how people argue in favor of the carriers. You really think Koodoo deserve’s the eight thousand dollars for a few text messages? Services that we all know are available on the internet for free?  People taking advantage of the carriers???? Riiiiiiiiiight….

  • RaphaelNinjaTurtle

    The only time I’ve ever argued ridiculous charges from my carrier was texting overage from rogers. This was pre usage details of course i went 1200 texts over my 500 allotment and i called them and said if i can’t tell how much i use how do you expect me to pay and they took the charges off. In this case though how do you not know premium texting went rack up a huge bill. I have an alcohol disability too

  • RaphaelNinjaTurtle

    I don’t think he’s defending the carriers, he’s just saying people need to be responsible we all know carriers rip us off. And to be clear koodoo doesn’t deserve 8000$

  • Fu

    dumb kid who doesn’t know better, enough said.

  • JMCD23

    Exactly. I do agree the consumer has SOME responsibility. But the moment someone’s account begins racking up charges that are either A. Unusual or B. over $200, the provider should be contacting the account holder to inform them before things get out of hand. That or suspending the account.

  • Brandon K

    its Kobza.

  • Brandon K

    You are so right, JMCD23

  • Brandon K

    Its Kobza