Consumer Confidential: Bill shock, T-Mobile, Coke
-- Talk about bill shock. A South Florida woman got a jolt when she opened a recent cellphone bill: she owed $201,000 -- and it was no mistake. Celina Aarons has her two deaf-mute brothers on her plan. They communicate by texting and use their phones to watch videos. Normally, that's not a problem. Aarons has the appropriate data plan and her bill is about $175. But her brothers spent two weeks in Canada and Aarons never changed to an international plan. Her brothers sent over 2,000 texts and also downloaded videos, sometimes racking up $2,000 in data charges. But after word of the mile-high bill got out, T-Mobile said it would cut Aarons' charges to $2,500 and gave her six months to pay. This is why federal regulators now want cellphone companies to alert people before the fees start soaring.
-- Speaking of cellphones, T-Mobile has launched several pay-per-day plans for customers who think a monthly plan is too much of a commitment. There is a $1-a-day plan, which comes with unlimited text messages and a charge of 10 cents a minute for phone calls; a $2 plan for unlimited talk, text messages, and data at 2G speeds; and a $3 plan for unlimited talk, text, and data, though only the first 200 megabytes of data will be sent at a higher speed. Daily plans are useful to customers who only use their phones sparingly, allowing them to avoid charges on days when the device isn't touched.
--Despite higher prices, our thirst for sugar water is unabated. Coca-Cola says its third-quarter profit rose 8% as it offset higher costs with price increases and volume grew worldwide. The world's largest soft-drink maker, which has more than 500 brands including Fanta, Sprite, Dasani and Minute Maid in addition to its namesake, has shown consistent growth for years, but it's being increasingly pressured by rising costs and consumers' cautious spending due to the turbulent economy. Even so, Coke says volume grew 5% in North America and worldwide. And dentists everywhere are rejoicing.
-- David Lazarus
Photo: If you're not careful, your cellphone bill can soar. Credit: Robert Galbraith / Reuters