Yesterday, as I landed in a foreign country, I did my normal routine: switched off airplane mode on my phone, waited for signal to kick in, repeat, repeat, repeat. Once I connected, in poured the push notifications, the first of which is usually a text from the foreign carrier I just connected to warning me that I’m roaming and threatening to take my first child for every MB of data used. Yesterday, the message was a little different.
It was actually a text message from my U.S. carrier, Verizon, notifying me to turn data services off or use WiFi to avoid data charges. I thought nothing of this since I had the global data plan already enabled on my phone. Next, in came the foreign carrier text telling me the current take-your-first-child rates: $20.48 per MB of data used. Not even one minute later (I checked the time stamps), a third message came in, this time from Verizon again, alerting me that I’ve “exceeded $50 in global data charges.”
Again, I didn’t think too much of this because I knew my global data plan was enabled. That plan allows you to pay $25 for each 100MB of data usage when traveling abroad — still a rip-off, yes, but a relative steal compared to the aforementioned take-your-first-child rates normally associated with international data roaming. Because I had been in another country a few weeks prior, I thought such a message might just be a residual warning from data usage on that trip.
US carriers are not in the business of excellent customer service. T-Mobile is moving in the right direction, but mobile telecom is still an unfriendly industry for consumers.
Carriers can get away with this crap because competition is severely limited, much like the cable television industry. More (real) competition is seemingly impossible in industries like telecom due to the astronomical entry costs. US telecom is an oligopoly, and it’s extremely frustrating.