Turn on your data for one minute, AT&T sticks you with a $750 international roaming charge

Jeff writes, "I learned this week that it's possible to run up a $750 international data roaming bill in one minute on AT&T. I managed to convince AT&T to forgive the charges after two days and 40 minutes of phone calls but the best guess at how this happened is kind of alarming. It seems that AT&T's billing system sometimes bundles US traffic with international traffic." Jeff was driving in the Pacific northwest, near the Canadian border.

When I called AT&T later, I was surprised to learn my phone had used 50 MB of data bandwidth during my one minute of roaming. At $15.36 per MB, they said I owed more than $750. I tried explaining to the agent that I was happy to pay for data that I used but that my phone was unable to successfully acquire any usable data. I spent 28 minutes on the phone with the agent and his supervisor but they adamantly refused to reactivate my U.S. data service unless I agreed to purchase a $30 international data roaming package to cover the usage. They also were unable to document the bandwidth usage to any detail but this is partly understandable for privacy reasons.

Yes, You Can Spend $750 in International Data Roaming in One Minute on AT&T (Thanks, Jeff!)

Notable Replies

  1. He says he's going to switch to T-Mobile when the iPhone 6 comes out. If only Sprint weren't still in the process of buying T-Mobile. (I really, really wish the Fed would nix that merger. There is no benefit to the consumer in it, and no technology benefit in merging an CDMA network with a GSM one. )

  2. gid says:

    This is the reason I still buy the biggest capacity smartphone rather than storing all my stuff in "the cloud". The time I really want to take photos, check directions, book tickets and listen to music is when I'm travelling.

  3. All this guy did was try to check Google maps for a single minute - which should have been a meg or two - and he never even got through. So, even with your giant smart phone with it's gigs of on board storage you'd still have been charged this same kind of outrageous $750 roaming fee.

    There is just no valid excuse for charging over $15 a meg. Nor is there any valid excuse for why cell phones can't show charges in real time, without needing to go to a website. The cell companies don't want you to know how much you are paying. It's why even before smart phones they actively removed the display total call time functions that were part of the stock features of cell phones.

  4. Sim0n says:

    Meanwhile, in not ass-backwards telephone land: "On 3 April 2014, MEPs voted by 534 votes to 25, to end roaming fees within the European Union from 15 December 2015"

  5. When in Rome, do as the roamers do? Or don't...

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