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Businessman with cell phone

Is a customer's $22,000 cell phone bill the result of negligent parenting or Rogers price-gouging?

A B.C. man is accusing Rogers of the latter after his 11-year-old-son rang up $22,000 of data charges during a family vacation to Mexico. The father, Matt Buie, admitted to CBC that before leaving on the trip an Apple store rep advised him to switch his iPhone to airplane mode to avoid roaming charges.

Once in Mexico, however, Buie's son got a sunburn and stayed inside the hotel room for three days, during which time he streamed video and played online games.

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In short order Buie received a text message from his service provider, Fido, which is owned by Rogers, informing him that his phone was being shut down for security reasons due to "excessively high" data charges. Soon after the company informed Buie that his son had burned up approximately 700 megabytes – roughly the equivalent of 12 straight hours of YouTube streaming.

Fido subsequently reduced the bill to $2200, but by then Buie was already seeing red. "It is gouging," he told a CBC reporter.

What really has Buie seeing red is that Fido didn't sent the cutoff message to his phone until three days of charges. If he had been a Telus customer, its system would have cut off the phone once the bill reached $200.

Which is pretty much all Buie wants to pay. Fido has subsequently slashed the bill to $500, but Buie only wants to pay a maximum of $200, the amount at which his phone would have been cut off if he had been a Telus customer.

And not for the first time the lines between cell phone service provider and customer are blurred. Is there a good guy and bad guy in this scenario?

Rogers continues to take occasional advantage of customers who are unfamiliar or unaccustomed to roaming charges, which itself seems like a rather sneaky and antiquated way of doing business. When new flat daily data charges were introduced in New Zealand, data roaming usage went through the roof.

At the same, Buie, a financial planner by vocation, probably should have been keeping closer tabs on his iPhone. His son made an honest mistake, but his father should have been paying closer attention. Should the sins of the son be revisited upon the father?

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What do you think? Have you ever received "bill shock" and immediately suspected your provider of gouging the charges?

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