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My cellphone provider just billed me for $18,000. Can they do that?

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My cellphone provider just billed me for $18,000. Can they do that?
After traveling in Vietnam for six days, I received a phone bill for $18,000. I’m on my carrier’s international plan, which charges a flat $7/day rate including data and texting. According to the carrier’s website, Vietnam is included in their coverage under this plan. What are my rights to dispute this bill?

My cellphone provider just billed me for $18,000. Can they do that? - Mario Garcia

“Roaming charges” may apply when you travel and use your cellphone outside your service provider’s network area. They apply to voice calls, text messages, picture messages, and data you receive or send when you’re roaming. Under the Wireless Code, your provider must suspend data roaming charges when they reach $100 in a single monthly billing period, unless you explicitly agree to pay additional roaming charges. 

Also under the Wireless Code, your provider must suspend data overage charges when they reach $50 within a single billing period, unless you explicitly agree to pay additional charges. If you continue to use your cellphone after the provider informs you that you’ve reached the cap, then the bill will continue to add up. 

Note also that your provider must notify you, at no charge, when your device is roaming in another country. The provider must notify both the account holder and the device user. 

There are steps you can take to dispute your phone bill:

  • Contact your provider. Calmly and accurately describe the problem to your provider, and ask them to reduce the bill. Try to speak with someone in authority, such as a manager. Have a record of your prior correspondence with the provider at hand.
  • Send a complaint letter. Explain why you dispute the bill, and which charges aren’t correct. Include a copy of the bill. Also, provide your contact information and your account number.
  • File a complaint with the CCTS. The Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services administers the Wireless Code and deals with consumer complaints about service issues. Here is information on filing a complaint.
Written June 9, 2019

Our information on disputing a phone bill includes a template letter to write to your service provider to dispute a bill.

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