For Christmas, I purchased my handicapped son a cell phone. He's had cell phones in the past, however, they were always taken away because either he went over the monthly allowance for "minutes" or, if prepaid, he always ran out of minutes purchased way before the month was up. The problem is that he has no concept of time or money (which is why my husband and I are his Guardians). He is mentally challenged but is very independent in his own way. We take care of his finances, clothing, where he resides, etc. He is able to use public transit independently and spends his days one or two libraries in the city and visitng the many friends he has made over the years.
But, while he is independent, he is also vunerable and we wanted to make sure either we could contact him or he could contact us or his group home staff, at any time.
Walking into a local mall, I noticed a couple of cell phone providers had kiosks so went over to one of them to find out what new plans have come out since our son last had a cell phone. I found out that this cell phone provider had "unlimited texting," unlimited phone calls and other services.
I wanted the unlimited texting, local phone calls only and no web access. No problem I was told. I was also assured that there were no hidden charges and that the phone bill would be the same each and every month. Great, I thought. I won't have to worry about excess minutes nor extra charges. I signed for the phone, (no locked-in contract either) and brought the cell phone home.
I spoke to the representative and clearly explained our past experiences with my son with a couple of other cell phone plans. I also emphasized that the phone was a gift and that I would not be in possession of it - my son would have it. I also said that, (wanting to cover all basis) in the future, should there be a problem with the account to contact me at my home phone number (msg machine would take msgs if I wasn't home) or via email which they had for billing purposes). I was also sure I gave them my personal cell phone number.
I brought the bloody thing home and I showed it to my husband who immediately asked about the texting. He didn't think our son needed it. I explained that some of my sons' friends had texting and did it all the time and besides, I was assured that it was "unlimited" and, therefore covered under the plan. At any rate, we gave our son the phone and he was extremely happy with his gift.
The first month after getting the phone, the cell bill was emailed to us (saved $2/mo doing that) and everything was fine. The bill was paid in a very timely manner (i.e. immediately). The next bill came a month later and it was $3,400.00!!! Say what????
I immediately emailed the cell phone provider and they stated that they couldn't help me via email that I had to phone. So I did. They told me it was from Premium texting. I told the rep that we were told that all texts were "unlimited" and no extra charge. They then said this was different. It took us a couple of phone calls to determine just what this "premium" texting was. Apparently, our son went to one of the libraries and got on the net to a "net texting" service, gave them his cell phone number, thinking that he could manage the $1.50 text cost. What he (nor anyone that I've spoken to since) could have imagined that he would get over $2,140 text msg in less than 10 days!! And, once we found out what was happening and cancelled the phone number, the phone bill is now at $3,800 (with service charges and extra texting), but I digress.
I almost had a heart attack! I called my son and asked him if he had any idea of what he'd done and how much his phone bill was. He simply said to give him his ATM card and he'd go pay it. I explained to him that he didn't have that kind of money; I didn't have that kind of money.
Later, after speaking with his group home staff and other close friends of his, he had told them about the situation but said he owed $300.00.
I contacted the cell phone company, explained the situation and requested that the charges be reversed. No matter what, my son cannot be held responsbile for something he clearly had no understanding of. I also wanted to know why the cell phone company did not contact me when the bill was say, $500 or even $1000. I was told that they had - by texting my son's phone. I told them that I had specifically stated to their rep @ the mall that i would not be in possession of the phone and that they were to contact me directly - they did not.
I am so angry at myself - my husband was right - but neither one of us knew about this "premium" texting business. I spoke to several people, including my brother, and they have told me that either they or someone in their family has been caught up in this type of situation as well. My brother was fortunate to catch it at $150; a co-worker's daughter ended up paying $500 before catching it and
another individual's 16 year old daughter had agreed, unknowingly, to getting updates on Canada's got Talent or Dance with the Stars Canada or something like that, not knowing that she'd also be charged for every text - 12 times a day!!
So it sounds like this is a real issue. I have contacted the dating site as well and emailed our legal papers showing that he cannot be held responsible for anything he agreed to on their website and have not received a response as yet. However, I also feel that cell phone providers have a responsibility to ensure that any information given to them (via their representatives) be duly recorded because that's why I told him that I wouldn't have the phone!!
I received a copy of all our correspondence/communicaton and no where does it state that I gave them that information. Also, in my representations to the rep when dealing with the initial situation, no where does it state that I offered to pay 1/2 of the bill plus the monthly fee and it was rejected.
I feel like a fool and used. My son will NEVER have a phone as far as I'm concerned because there are just too many traps for individuals like me who just phone and text - period. Oh, maybe I use the camera once in awhile, but I dont' tweet, I don't go on the net - that's not what I purchased my cell phone for. I purchased it so I could reach any of my friends or family and could be reached by them.
Am I crazy or what? I have, so far, refused to pay the bill. I'm in the process of writing them a letter and I am still also trying to contact the text dating site. Should the rep have mentioned the "Premium Texting" and the costs that incurs (not unlike roaming charges in my opinion but we are aware of those). Was there a way I could have foreseen something like this not having heard nor experienced this before? I am morified at the situation.
I am also going to cc the letter to the CRTC but I'm not overly optimistic there.
Any comments to my situation??