Cellular Hodge Podge: $85,000 Phone Bill, Battling Cellular Spam

Here are two cellular related articles. The first is about a guy who didn’t understand his terms of service, the other is about spammers and public interest groups taking on Verizon for blocking unsolicited text messages. Filed under “just plain dumb” because ignorance isn’t an excuse to avoid obligations and because I don’t think carriers and their subscribers should have to subsidize those who send unsolicited text messages.

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Piotr Staniaszek of Calgary, AB, didn’t read through his cellular service agreement and thought “$10/month unlimited mobile browser plan” added on to his service meant that he could connect his computer to the phone to download high-def movies and other sizable content. The contract specified that the unlimited browsing applied only to the phone. He was charged on a per kb basis when the phone was connected to his computer.

I believe in buyer beware and that users are responsible for understanding their agreement terms. And I do in this case. It’s his fault for not reading and/or understanding the terms of service. Though I wouldn’t absolve him of anything for his ignorance, I do agree with his point (quoted below): if phone companies turn off service for being late on a few dollars, why would they allow $85,000 bills to be run up without notifying the customer?

Canadian hit with whopping 85,000-dollar cellphone bill:

“The thing is, they’ve cut my phone off for being like 100 dollars over. Here, I’m 85,000 dollars over and nobody bothered to give me a call and tell me what was going on.”

Bell Canada offered to reduce the bill to CA$3243. It’s a very fair gesture, in my opinion, but Staniaszek won’t take them up on it. He wouldn’t want me on his jury.

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Should Cellular Services Block Unsolicited Text Messages?:

If the FCC grants the petition [filed by various interest groups], it would open up mobile phone networks to millions of pieces of text spam, Nelson added. Verizon Wireless currently blocks between 100 million and 200 million unwanted text messages advertising pornography and other products, he said. Text messaging in the U.S. would quickly become “unusable” because of all the unblocked spam, Nelson said.

My answer to the question is, YES. Carriers are under no obligation to provide unfettered access to those sending unsolicited messages across their networks. It ends up costing their paying customers millions of dollars a month, and it also costs the companies money as they cancel charges to customers who object about receiving unsolicited text messages.

If those interest groups and spammers want unfettered access to send text messages to cellular subscribers, let them figure out a way to pay for that content so the subscribers don’t have to subsidize their spamming activities. Also require an opt-in for those who actually want to receive unsolicited messages.

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