Smart phone owners hit with data roaming fees

I’ve written about the “bill shock” that can arise when taking your smart phone with you to the United States or overseas.

In a couple of articles, I suggest that telecom companies could do a better job of warning people about the possibility of shockingly high charges.

They could urge people to protect themselves with detailed instructions on how to turn off their data settings or unlock their phones.

And they could make it easier for customers to find and choose the right prepaid data roaming packages.

In response, I’ve heard many stories about being caught unaware by high fees. Even corporate executives, who should know better, have had bad experiences.

I’m also getting feedback from readers who have no sympathy for those penalized for not knowing the rules.

They say it’s a waste of my time to defend clueless clients or try to get their data roaming charges “right sized,” as Rogers calls the process of putting people on a prepaid plan that would cover them.

Informed consumers often resent attempts to protect the uninformed. The issue of penalties for those who broke the rules for tax-free savings accounts in the first year springs to mind.

I always look at communication when deciding whether to not to use my power to help customers. I feel companies should go out of their way to let people know about bad things that might hurt them.

If customers aren’t warned in a way that catches their attention, they should have their charges written off — at least the first time — as a learning experience.

I’ll post some comments below to give you a feel for the debate. As usual, please feel free to add your own comments.

Free personal finance workshop, June 21

You’re invited to come to one of my free Financial Basics workshops, taking place at Ryerson University’s Chang School of Continuing Education on Tuesday, June 21, from 5.30 to 9.30 p.m. Here’s a link.

You can enroll in advance or just show up on the date. The location is 297 Victoria St., (just north of Dundas St. E., east of Yonge St.), 7th floor, The Bronfman Room.

Remember, the workshop includes an excellent take-home booklet, prepared by me with help from two partners, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada and the Investor Education Fund.

If you’re in Toronto, you can come to hear a talk by Tom Bradley, president of Steadyhand, a new and innovative Canadian mutual fund manager, at the investment club I organized.

We meet on Tuesday, June 14, at the Miles Nadal Community Centre, 750 Spadina Ave. (near Bloor St.). The cost is $10 a person. You can also get a copy of Tom’s book, It’s Not Rocket Science.

Do you have opinions on water heaters? Buy or rent? Which is better? Two MBA students at York University’s Schulich School of Business are doing a critical look at the burgeoning door-to-door sales of water heater rentals.

“It’s a 5-10 minute survey. The purpose is to understand the reason why individuals buy or rent their water heater, as well as to assess their level of satisfaction with the service that they are receiving,” says Azadeh Afshar, one of the students.

“The research is completely confidential and no individuals or organizations will be identified in it. The survey will also be destroyed at the end of our project.”

Here’s a link to the survey for water heater renters. And here’s a link to the survey if you’re a water heater owner.