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Roam if you want to: Plan for travel or risk a huge wireless bill

Posted by Mitch Lipka  March 13, 2012 07:00 AM

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Q. On a recent trip to the Dominican Republic, I briefly powered up my phone – never using it for calls, texting, or Internet and arrived back to home to find my phone had been disconnected by Verizon Wireless because of roaming charges that amounted to $599.58. After some discussions with customer service, I was told I would be charged $30 to be retroactively put on a plan that would have covered the roaming and then receive a $569 credit. I disagreed with the fee, but found it a reasonable solution. Three weeks later, after not seeing the credit, I was told the charges were valid and I again owed the full amount. It is unfair to treat a customer like this. Can you help?

Bob Spellane, Worcester

A. Just when you think you have a problem solved, it’s a problem all over again. The solution did seem reasonable compared to the alternative.

Given the about-face (a good example of why you need to get these sorts of promises in writing) and how common this sort of issue is, I asked the folks at Verizon Wireless to revisit the situation and offer some advice for those planning to travel outside the country. Verizon’s policy is to not discuss customer-specific issues, but it appears they will honor that offer of charging $30 for the basic “Global Data” plan.

The lesson here is that while your phone might work outside the United States, you could end up paying through the nose if you don’t make arrangements in advance. With today’s smart phones, as soon as a device is turned on, it starts looking for updates for email, social networks, and applications of all sorts that are quietly running in the background. It doesn’t take long to collect a lot of data and get charged for it.

Verizon Wireless spokesman Michael Murphy suggests that customers planning an international trip should get in touch with their carrier and find out whether their devices will work where they’re going and how much it might cost to use them – as well options available to keep costs manageable. Similar information is available at www.verizonwireless.com/global.

Avoid a surprise bill when you get home and sort out your wireless situation before you leave.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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About the author

Mitch Lipka is one of America's leading consumer journalists and advocates. He is an expert in product safety, recalls, scams, and helping consumers get out of jams. He is a nationally known consumer columnist and runs TheConsumerChronicle.com. He lives in Worcester. You can find him on Facebook or reach him at ConsumerNews@Aol.com

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