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?