[Ars Technica] On vacation and want to download a movie for your kids to watch? Don't do what Alberto did: downloaded Wall•E in Mexico without activating a data roaming plan. It was a painful, $62,000 lesson.
$62,000 to download a movie? That's what happened to a caller named Alberto, who told his data roaming tale of woe on the air to HLN "money expert" Clark Howard on CNN. Alberto made the grave mistake of downloading Wall-E for his nephew while vacationing in Mexico over his data card and was slapped with a $62,000 bill from his wireless carrier when he returned home. Alberto tried to contest the charge and the carrier reduced the bill to $17,000, arguing that the five-figure charge was what it cost them to deliver the movie.
Needless to say, both Alberto and Howard were completely incredulous that a simple movie download would generate such an impressive data bill. Indeed, $62,000—or $17,000—is pretty daunting for a 98 minute animated movie about an robot. However, it's pretty clear that Alberto made a rookie mistake after he purchased the data card for his laptop that could have been easily avoided. Instead, he inadvertently joined the legions of other mobile users who failed to pay attention to the fine print before traveling.
Stories of users receiving unexpectedly huge bills after using their phones and data cards are easy to find on the web. In fact, there's even a class-action lawsuit brewing over an iPhone owner's receiving a $2,000 bill after roaming in Mexico (hey, $2,000 is nothing compared to $17,000). Whether or not it's fair for carriers to charge these outrageous fees is up for debate—the carriers insist that the roaming charges overseas are extravagant and that they are just passing along the fees to their customers.
However, all major carriers offer international roaming plans that users can set up on their accounts before they get on a plane that can apply to both voice and data use. T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint all have web pages that describe the rates, and some even offer packaged plans for regular jet setters. Making sure your account is set up for international roaming can help save you from headaches and massive bills with minimal planning ahead of time. Then again, those who get slapped with $62,000 in international data charges—and find themselves shocked—may not be the type to "plan ahead of time."
$62,000 movie download a result of poor travel planning
see also CNN video