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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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