Man stung by $8,000 cellphone bill

Jason Boutang shows his iPhone with his $7763.70 phone bill from Virgin mobile displayed on its...

Jason Boutang shows his iPhone with his $7763.70 phone bill from Virgin mobile displayed on its screen while in his house in Airdrie, Alta., Sunday, July 4, 2010. (LAURA PEDERSEN/SPECIAL TO QMI AGENCY)

JENNA McMURRAY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:19 AM ET

CALGARY -- The “I heart Normandie” T-shirt isn’t the only souvenir from an Airdrie, Alta., man’s European trip.

Jason Boutang says he was shocked when he opened the bill for his iPhone and saw he had racked up charges of nearly $8,000.

“It’s criminal,” said Boutang of his June statement saying he owed Virgin Mobile $7,763.70 after using the phone for three days while travelling in France.

The Airdrie car salesman was visiting a number of First and Second World War battle sites including Normandy and Vimy Ridge June 1-7 and used his iPhone for guidance and entertainment.

Boutang said he used a translator application, which he thought was free, to help him communicate with the French and streamed a Calgary rock radio station for five hours over three days.

But because the two functions required Internet signals, Boutang’s charges began to escalate very quickly.

So quickly Virgin Mobile shut his phone off after three days, likely due to the amount of charges being racked up, which also included what Boutang says was about $150-worth of text messages and phone calls.

“They pulled the plug on me after the third day,” he said, adding he figured it was related to roaming charges of some sort, though he never would have imagined he’d open such a humongous bill weeks later.

“I opened my e-bill and fell over,” he said.

“I had to get three other people to look at the screen to make sure I read it right.

“I kind of figured it was from the trip ‘cause my average bill is about $200 a month.”

Boutang said he called Virgin Mobile right away to inquire about the charges but was told there was nothing the company could do.

“They said, ‘pay up, every penny ... you went outside your neighbourhood, you pay the price,’” he said.

What irks him most is he called the company a couple weeks before he left to inform them he would be taking his iPhone with him to Europe.

Boutang said the customer service representative failed to warn him about the pricey cost of using an iPhone abroad, and says he wasn’t told about a roaming data plan he’s since discovered that might have allowed him to use his phone overseas for as little as $200.

Boutang said he filed a complaint with the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) on Friday and will await the response before he pays anything.

In the meantime, he picked up a basic cellphone and is paying on a month-to-month basis with Rogers.

“I can’t even get on the Internet and I don’t want to,” said Boutang, though he admits to missing the iPhone dearly.

“Right now it’s a nice ornament.

“It hurts, but I don’t even want to pick it up; I don’t even want to look at it.”

While Virgin Mobile said it is looking into the case to see if there’s anything that can be done to cushion the billing blow, spokeswoman Erica Faltous said when people go abroad, they need to be aware of the potential for soaring costs.

“We do our best to have warnings in place but we are looking into it to see if there’s some way we can help out.”

Faltous said Boutang used about 130 megabytes over the three days, which is the equivalent of sending 5,000 emails, loading 600 web pages or viewing 100 minutes worth of video.

jenna.mcmurray@sunmedia.ca


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