Woman disputes U.S. cellphone roaming charges received while on Vancouver Island
VICTORIA -- It’s a problem that’s all too common for residents of Vancouver Island.
Emma Gilchrist says that after receiving an unusually expensive phone bill, she turned to social media to dispute U.S. roaming charges that were incurred when she was on a recent surfing trip near Sooke.
A total of $16 in U.S. roaming fees were charged to Gilchrist, all while she remained on the Canadian side of the border.
"Actually, there is a Canadian cellphone tower near Shirley, and I had Wi-Fi, and I kept getting voicemails," she told CTV News. "So I thought, 'My roaming is off. I guess I have service somehow through Wi-Fi or the Shirley tower.'"
But then she checked her voicemail, and learned that she had received roaming charges.
Gilchrist says she explained the situation to a Telus representative, who initially refused to offer her a refund for the roaming charges.
"They told me they’d have a manager call me back within 24 hours," she said. "After a week went by, I hadn’t heard anything. Then I took to Twitter to complain about it."
Within hours, her social media post received more than a dozen responses from people who faced similar roaming charges while still in Canada. After the post gained traction, Telus eventually offered her a refund.
The communications company says that it has several measures in place to try to avoid incorrectly issuing roaming charges.
"In addition to tilting antennas away from borders, we have also programmed our network to reject the first few attempts of a U.S. carrier to register a customer as roaming by trying to reconnect the device to our network first," said Telus in a statement to CTV News Wednesday.
"While it is rare, we want to be clear that no one will be charged for illegitimate roaming," said the company.
Dr. Eric Li, a consumer relations professor at the University of British Columbia, says that greater transparency is needed from all cellphone companies, especially since Canadians pay some of the highest phone bills in the world.
"I think we all know this isn’t a new issue," said Li. "But [cellphone companies] have to keep communicating with the consumer so they know they need to turn off those roaming features."
"I also think the consumer has the right to ask for that refund if they are wrongfully charged," he said.