$85K cellphone bill shocks Bell user

Customer refuses to pay even after Bell knocks debt down to $4,000

Jorge Barrera
CanWest News Service

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Grande Prairie, Alta. man is gearing for a fight with his service provider after receiving an $85,000 bill for using his cellphone as a modem for almost two months.

Bell Canada has since cut the bill down to around $4,000 but Piotr Staniaszek, 22, of Grande Prairie said he has no plans to pay it off — and challenged the company to make the next move.

“There is no way I can afford it as a 22-year-old living in Grande Prairie, working in the oil industry that’s going slow. I am not even working right now,” said Staniaszek in a cellphone interview using the same Motorola KRZR that’s brought him the debt grief.

Staniaszek said Bell never made the rates clear and should have at least alerted him when his bill started climbing into the stratosphere. He was using his cellphone as an Internet modem for his computer, believing it was part of his mobile web-browsing package.

He said he started using the phone as modem in October. His November bill hit him between the eyes with a $60,000 charge. Then it grew to $85,000.

“They never called me when it got up to $1,000 or $2,000 or $30,000 and I kept using the Internet. It is kind of unfair,” Staniaszek said.

He said he didn’t know about the $15-per-megabyte modem charge.

A spokesman for Bell said Staniaszek downloaded the equivalent of 10 high-resolution movies in one month. Mark Langton said accessing the modem service requires online registration and agreeing to terms spelling out the higher fees.

“It is quite clear it wasn’t accidental. You have to agree to the conditions,” he said.

Langton said the size of the bill was an anomaly. Staniaszek’s billing cycle managed to slip through a newly implemented data-usage monitoring system, he said.

But the company expects him to pay.

“He used the network, used the service and did so knowingly and willingly,” he said.

Consumers’ Association of Canada president Bruce Cran said Staniaszek has the right to refuse to pay.

“The bill is absolutely ludicrous. They should have noticed something very wrong when they sent the billing,” Cran said.

Staniaszek’s father, Piotr Staniaszek, 53, also thinks his son should fight the company to the end. “They’re bloodsuckers,” said the elder Staniaszek, a physicist who lives in Calgary and came to Canada from Poland 22 years ago.

Story found HERE.