Higher-than-usual cell phone charges can come as a shock — but a monthly bill equivalent to the price of a decent new car is something else altogether.
That’s what a San Jose family returned home to, after a family reunion in a tropical paradise in Vietnam, according to a new report.
“Relatives from many countries gathered on an island off the southern coast … and frolicked on the white sand beaches,” said the report by ABC TV.
For the San Jose family, the bad news hit back home when the T-Mobile bill for one of their phones arrived — it noted a monthly charge of $13,740.19 for internet use, according to the network.
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“Oh my God, we almost fainted,” said Vivian Chung, the mother in the San Jose family. The phone was her son’s, the report said.
“This costs more than the trip.”
Chung told the network the Apple iPhone had been put into airplane mode, which is supposed to shut off roaming and internet charges. She believes most of the billed amount for internet use came from only a half hour of phone use, while the family were about to land in Vietnam at the start of the holiday, ABC TV reported.
Chung said the family were well aware of the need to put phones in airplane mode to avoid surprise bills, and her son, Nicholas, said he’d put the phone into that mode for the entire trip, according to ABC. Blamed for the giant bill, the lad was rattled, reportedly.
“I was confused and scared,” Nicholas told the network.
“Because $13,000 is a lot of money. I was like, ‘What? I didn’t do anything.’”
The boy said he’d used the phone to play games on the flight, but only offline ones that don’t need the internet, ABC reported.
The family called T-Mobile right away about the bill, and were told Nicholas must have downloaded a movie or music or other large amounts of data, the report said. T-Mobile said it would cut the bill to $3,800, but the family thought that was unfair.
“We didn’t want to pay for something we didn’t use,” Chung said.
Instead of calling their local newspaper, the family did the next-best thing: contacted ABC’s Bay Area-based “7 On Your Side” consumer-protection show. After ABC called T-Mobile, the cellular-services company relented and nixed the shocking extra charge, according to the report.
How the problem occurred remains unclear. Nicholas told ABC he believes the chess game he was playing on the phone was using data even in airplane mode — but turning on airplane mode on an iPhone shuts off cellular data.
T-Mobile, asked about the matter, advised customers planning international trips to contact its customer-service department or check international roaming coverage and charges online, according to ABC.
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