Overseas trip leads to huge phone bill, but roaming function off

October 26, 2015 15:55
Ms Yuen could not believe her phone bill which includes HK$2,772 for data roaming charges. Photos: Bloomberg,Sky Post

A woman who used her smartphone during her trip to Canada, the United States and Mexico in August has been billed for HK$2,772 in data roaming fees for a period of two weeks, although she had turned off the function on her handset, the Sky Post reported on Monday.

The complainant, identified as Ms. Yuen, said she had kept the roaming data feature of her HTC Butterfly model off throughout the trip, using only WiFi whenever it was available.

However, when she returned to Hong Kong, she received a bill of HK$2,772 from operator SmarTone for the use of overseas data roaming service for 14 days at HK$198 each.

She had bought the handset in Hong Kong, but it was learned that it was a parallel-trade unit from Taiwan.

SmarTone later waived the fees for Ms. Yuen after a records check showed that only 2KB of data had been sent out daily from the handset throughout the period.

Given the low volume of use, SmarTone said it could be a smartphone issue.

The operator said it had reported the case to handset manufacturer HTC and requested that follow-up measures be taken.

HTC said an inspection of the model showed that it was not launched in Hong Kong. It declined to comment on the case as there were no compatibility tests being conducted on the particular model with operators in Hong Kong.

Francis Fong, president of the Hong Kong Information Technology Federation, said it was a rare case, and suspected that flaws in the system design of the HTC handset could have led to the problem.

While using the same Android operating system, handset manufacturers would customize it for their own use, and this could have been the cause of the problem, Fong explained.

Lee Lik-hang, a director of Finland-based F-Security, believed the handset software was to blame.

According to the Communications Authority, over 80 percent of complaints it received from last October to September this year were related to roaming data charges, including one in which the user was billed for HK$500,000 after the handset was stolen overseas.

The Consumer Council said it received 480 complaints on mobile operators in the first eight months of 2015, down by over 50 percent from the over 1,000 cases during the same period last year.

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