doug — off the record

just a place to share some thoughts

Watch those bills

Hopefully, this is a post to the wise who do this already.

In the summer, my wife and I moved to a new mobile telephone service. The kids and I had convinced her to get a smartphone! The tipping point, I’m sure, was the assurance that we could get her the same number on her smartphone that we had had on the landline for years. The timing was pretty good because my old smartphone had bricked itself and there was no bringing it back to life.

As a result, we got two new smartphones with slightly different “plans”. That whole industry befuddles me because it seems like you’re paying for air! I wanted to make sure that I had data with my plan and she just wanted unlimited calling and texting because she was going to learn to text. Great!

Part of the deal was that we had our monthly charges automatically charged to credit card. That was really handy. Even though both of the phones were in an account under her name, we had the monthly bill emailed to me. Not a problem.

And we moved along quite nicely with the new arrangements. Last week, we got the latest bill indicating that the charge had been made but the actual amount of the charge seemed strange to me. Like $10 more strange. I ended up getting involved with something else but got back to it on Sunday morning.

Photo by Michelle Spollen on Unsplash

Indeed, the bill was $10 more. My wife had been charged for data. That seemed kind of strange so I look into the settings for her phone and all the mobile data settings were turned off and, according to the usage meter, she had used no data at all. That all made sense.

I went back into the bill online (I was now looking for conspiracies…) and noted that she had data that put her in the 0-100MB range which was $10.00/month. So, I found where the charge was laid. Our provider was even kind enough to let us know that we could fix the problem of being charged for overages by buying data in advance. I asked and she had no desire for it since we’re typically together and could just use mine. To be truthful, I have tons of data left over every month.

The online bill had the ability to drill down and see exactly how much data had been used so I drilled. She had, in fact, been charged for 0.001MB data. How strange was that?! Yes, that would be in the 0-100MB range. However, I was challenged to think of just what 0.001MB of data would look like. The best I could come up with was that it was a ping off a data point somewhere we’d been.

Anyway, she ended up calling the provider to get the charge removed. The person on the other end was at a loss to explain what 0.001MB of data looks like and agreed to post a $10 credit to our account for next month’s bill. This all met to our satisfaction so I’m not naming the provider here. Within moments, we got a survey to express our opinion about the service. At this point, it was 5/5 stars.

With more and more bills being moved online for convenience, the takeaway is to not just accept it; check out the bills for the anomalies. In the news recently, I’ve read about a person getting a huge water bill because of a leaky line and a plain out computer problem with an electricity bill. Since it’s all automated, the only person that the onus falls on for checking is the consumer. I know that’s the way that it’s always been but it’s so easy to let life get in the way and just not stay on top of things. That would have costed us $10 which isn’t the end of the world but it would buy a couple of coffees and danishes.

I think, in the Computer Science classroom, this would be a good launching point for talking about the reasonableness of data. It’s easy for the computer somewhere to say, “Hey, you’re between 0-100MB so pay up”. But, is that reasonable? What does it do for customer relations?

Do you have any automatic billing stories to share? How about doing so in the replies.


3 responses to “Watch those bills”

  1. My friend was just charge $300 for unknown data usage. She hasn’t done anything different in the last month and the company can’t explain it but also won’t remove the charge. She’s switching companies. I was just charged $50 and I’ve done nothing different (though I always suspect my kids!) We really do have to pay attention to the automatic bills!


  2. Doug!

    Cell phone bills do need to be closely monitored. With your proximity to the American border, you probably have your roaming turned off so that you don’t accidentally get pinged by a tower on the American side?

    My cell phone plan allows me to use my Canadian data while I am roaming in the States for the privilege of paying an eight dollar daily fee. It’s certainly easier than swapping to an American SIM card, or paying the exorbitant roaming/overage fees that would otherwise apply (Been there.) Granted, I haven’t travelled in the states since February 2020, but in October I was visiting my brother and we took a drive along the southern coast of Vancouver Island and I suddenly got a “Welcome to the US” text on my phone. Oops. I immediately turned off roaming. When I reviewed my monthly bill, I had been charged the eight dollar fee for that brief unintentional connection across the water with a US carrier. With the reality of modern nation-wide plans for calls, texting, and data, roaming can stay turned off for the time being.


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