Always on, always paying

Joseph Waring
28 Apr 2010
Bill shock hit home this week for Telecom Asia. My son racked up a HK$16,000 (US$2,000) data service bill in less than two weeks after activating GPRS on his HTC Magic -- without once being informed how much he was being charged or that the charge had reached a high level.
He did receive an SMS alert after about a week when the usage hit 130k (which means nothing to me, much less a 14-year-old). That would seems a bit late; at HK$0.10/kb, that usage turns out to be HK$13,000. And then the alerts came daily; but with the HTC Magic turning off GPRS isn’t an option. He was forced to turn phone to "airplane" mode at most times since apps such a Gmail, Facebook and some games automatically connect to the internet without clicking the app.
At the very least a subscriber should receive a text stating how he is charged (the cost per kb) and a warning text, email or phone call stating the bill had reached a high level (staring at perhaps HK$500, then again at $1,000), and finally the service should be cut off at some reasonable point.
Yet none of this happened. How can the operator allow a customer to build up a HK$16,000 bill? This was while in Hong Kong -- roaming would be even higher as we see from the South China Morning Post yesterday, when a host for an online radio station had a roaming bill of HK$29,000 on a three-day trip to Thailand.
But it's not over. On a visit to the company’s retail outline to figure out how to turn off GPRS on his phone and cut off his data service, I was told it can't be turned off on the HTC Magic and that the data services can't be terminated (which isn't the case; a manager later said he can do so with authorization; so why didn't the agent cut off when asked?).


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