AT&T charges me $6000 (USD) for Mexican roaming internet on my PDA - A vacation horror story ~ Ask The Admin

Monday, June 16, 2008

AT&T charges me $6000 (USD) for Mexican roaming internet on my PDA - A vacation horror story

Hello Boys and Girls,

Commodore 64 here once more to expose another seething injustice of man vs. machine. I'm the one that touted AT&T's excellent EDGE service in articles I've written about both the 8125 and the 8525. I'm the one that never said an unfair thing about AT&T in any of my various articles on Mobile Internet or Windows Mobile.

  • But now this is a kick in the head.
The "Billing Overview" widget from AT&T's Account Management website is a screenshot of what happens if you log into my account. Now granted this is not where the story begins. The story began at $6000 as stated in the title of this article. and it goes like this:

My fiance' and I were lucky enough to get away for a short , but well deserved week of vacationing in one of the more premier all-inclusive resorts in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
When we arrived at our room, I laid my phone to rest knowing nobody would be calling me, however leaving it on only in case a family member or loved one had an emergency of some sort that warranted my attention. I had no qualms with leaving it on because the phone gave me no indication that it was roaming or anything so I didn't think anything of it.

The phone essentially stayed in the safe that came with our room. Little did I know, devious things were happening at some Mexican telecom.

Fast forward to day 4 of our vacation. Not even 3 days left to the trip. I get a text message stating my account is showing unusually high activity and that I should specifically call the phone number prescribed in the text message. The only problem was, I didn't know how to dial back to the US, the phone wasn't getting my calls through. Most likely I wasn't dialing the country codes correctly. No go.

So I got on my phone to try to browse the AT&T website to find some clue as to how I can possibly get in touch with ANYBODY at AT&T to figure out what the damages were. Finally after about an hour of worrisome browsing around on my phone, I found a phone number to call. I also had to learn how to dial out. Apparently you can hold down the "0" key and get a "+" plus sign. This magical "+" is what allows normal human beings to communicate beyond geographic boundaries.

Needless to say, by this time, my fiance' and I were very distraught over all of this, as the vacation was already costing us an arm and a leg to begin with.

After about 15 minutes of hold time (while roaming!) I finally got through to the person who had actually sent me the text message, and came to find my phone bill was $6000+ dollars!
My first reaction was "Is that in US dollars? Clearly this must be a mix-up between Pesos and Dollars." (the current exchange rate is roughly 10 pesos = $1)
This lady was trying to tell me that for the price of a brand new Hyundai, in good old US American Dollars I can have some internet in Mexico!

Not all is lost.

The lady on the phone was kind enough to prorate my account to have a 20MB international data roaming plan. Which basically means for $29.99 I get my $6000 phone bill chopped down to $1900+ dollars that you see in the pic above. A substantial step, but nonetheless, $1900 is still the price of something you can drive away in, not the price of wireless internet. Still completely unfair pricing on the part of AT&T.

The way I see it one of three things is happening here:
  1. AT&T has secured a complete monopoly over the price of wireless internet abroad, in which case they are completely price gouging it's hapless customers who might wander into some accidental PDA internet usage while away on vacation. This means federale monopoly busting is in order.
  2. AT&T is being swindled by the Mexican telecoms who themselves have secured a monopoly on wireless internet provision. This means that AT& is being price gouged and is passing the gouging along to me, the customer. Basically they are throwing me to the Mexican wolves and might even be looking to make an example of me. Sadly, the real moral truth is that AT&T should be protecting me from situations like this.
  3. Someone on the AT&T side forgot to convert the Mexican Peso to US Dollars. In which case I actually owed $600 which was proactively reduced to what is now $190. This is perfectly normal pricing and I would pay anywhere between $190 and $600 promptly and this whole ordeal would be forgotten
When I had asked the CSR on the phone why I wasn't informed earlier of impending financial distress, for example when the bill hit $1000 rather than $6000, she stated that AT&T was not informed of this by the Mexican telecom until it was too late. She stated that I was informed as soon as they were informed.

So what recourse do I have? Writing this article is one of them. Filing a formal complaint with the better business bureau is another. Who knows maybe a lawyer will want to pick up the case. In the end I'd rather pay the lawyer some money than AT&T. I feel that in this case a lawyer would be more deserving of that $1900 than AT&T would. Take that how you want to.

The fact is, I've paid AT&T over $130 per month over the last few years. I'm not the type to skimp for phone service. I believe that for $130+ a month, I should have been informed in a timely manner. I also believe that both myself and AT&T are getting swindled, and rather than sticking up for it's customers, AT&T is deciding to bow their heads like pussies while I take the brunt of the punishment from the Mexican telecom. I was also adamant at stating that I am willing to pay a reasonable price for overage while data roaming internationally. I believe anything along the lines of $200-$300 for international data usage should more than sufficient , unless they are trying to cover ALL their backbone costs on poor little me. In this case $6000 operating costs for a week of running a Mexican wireless ISP sounds about right.

In the meantime, I'm told that my account is in dispute so I wait.

But, not in any sense of the word, do I wait idly. Actions will be taken on my part if no action is taken on theirs. This ordeal ruined my vacation, and I want to be sure nobody else gets caught out by AT&T like I did. I'll survive regardless of the amount I have to pay, but some others might be thrown into terrible despair by an incidental $1900 bill.

I will keep this post updated with any progress, forward or backwards, that I come across.

Commodore (can't afford 64 no more)

Want to chip in and help Commodore out? Click below to donate now! Don't have money to spare Stumble this article from Stumble Upon!

You can use the donate button on the right as well.