How to Fight iPhone Data Roaming Charges

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International travel is exciting, but if you're not careful your international trip can include iPhone data roaming charges that add up to hundreds or thousands extra on your monthly phone bill. These aren't isolated incidents, as the many iPhone data roaming horror stories found across the internet prove.

But just because these charges appear on your bill doesn't mean you're stuck having to pay them. These instructions will help you fight the charges and, if you're persistent and lucky, maybe not have to pay them.

What Causes Big iPhone Data Roaming Bills

The monthly plans that iPhone users purchase for making calls and using data on their phones are for use only in their country. Unless you specifically get a plan with international features, making calls or using data outside your home country isn't part of your monthly costs. As a result, when you go to another country and start using your iPhone, you're immediately in "roaming" mode (that is, roaming outside your home country and off of your home phone-company network). Phone companies charge exorbitant fees for calls and data while in roaming mode — and that's what causes the shockingly high bills after trips.

How to Fight iPhone Roaming Bills

If you're facing a big iPhone data roaming bill and want to try to avoid paying the whole thing, follow these tips. We can't promise that they'll get you out of paying, but they give you a fighting chance.

  1. Create a clear, clean list with the following information:

    • Your account name & number
    • Your monthly phone plan type
    • Your monthly phone plan inclusions/features
    • Any phone plan extras that you've added
    • The amount of the roaming overage you want to contest (list both the amount of the charge and the data used).
  2. Compile all your documents to support the above list, i.e. your original phone contract, the bill you're contesting, etc.

  3. On another sheet of paper, write down exactly why you are disputing the bill (I don't have the money, I can't pay, it's ridiculous, etc. are not acceptable reasons). Acceptable reasons include incorrect charges, misleading information or advice, etc.

  4. Write down your plan of attack. For example, email customer service; if that fails contact consumer affairs/protection; if that fails, seek legal advice.

  5. Write a draft email. Include all relevant account details, the disputed amount, the reasons why you are disputing, and what resolution you seek.

  6. Mention what step you will take if you find their response unsatisfactory. Don't threaten, inform. For example, "I have contacted consumer affairs and pending an unacceptable response I will be pursuing the matter further." Also include the following line towards the end of your email: "I would like to continue all correspondence related to this matter via email so I have an accurate and complete record of our conversations."

  7. Re-read the draft email. Do not threaten, or use abusive or foul language. Get someone else to read it and give feedback. Is it polite, firm, and clear? Did you explain exactly what you are disputing and why? Words like misleading, outrageous, disgusted are all strong and evocative words, include them if applicable and appropriate.

  8. Send your email to the complaints department at you phone company and await a response. If they call, simply state you will not discuss the matter over the phone and all correspondence should be via email as indicated. If you have not received a response after 5 business days, resend the email.

  9. When the company replies decide whether their response is:

    1. acceptable and reasonable (you got what you wanted).
    2. unacceptable but reasonable (they have offered you a decent deal).
    3. unacceptable and unreasonable (they won't negotiate).
    4. Now you have to decide whether you will take #1 only or #1 and #2. It's important to decide when it's worth accepting. There may not be a price you have in mind, but rather a principle.
  10. If you don't get a satisfactory answer, inform the company of this. Explain why it's not good enough and again inform them that you are taking the matter to consumer affairs. Now lodge a complaint through your relevant consumer affairs body and take it from there.

  11. Finally, seek legal advice and pursue it.

Keep a record of everything (emails included). Be prepared to fight for the principle of it. You will hit a few roadblocks, and the company is counting on you giving up because of the roadblocks. Be calm, polite and reasonable.

How to Avoid iPhone Data Roaming Charges

The best way to avoid having to contest a bill for data roaming is to avoid roaming in the first place. One simple way to do this is to get an international data plan from your phone company before you leave on your trip. Just contact your phone company and they can help you.

Alternatively, for tips on how to avoid these bills by changing settings on your phone, here are 6 ways to avoid big iPhone data roaming bills.