Watch out for unexpected text messages - a $236 lesson

or … is evil!

A little background…

I have a family plan with my wife and daughter for our cell phones. We share 1,000 weekday minutes and also have free weekends, text messaging, voice mail etc. Our monthly bill is about $300, but much of it is to run our businesses.

My daughter was using way to many of our daytime minutes with calls and voicemail, so she switched to text messaging with a vengeance. After paying the first bill where she was way over the text message limit (she paid her part), we switched to a plan giving us 2,500 free text messages a month.

On the last bill I see an extra charge for $236 for 472 messages. As there was only a total of 1099 messages I assume there is some kind of mistake. The 472 messages are billed as premium services (I know some of you are way ahead of me). So I guess that maybe my daughter was sending photos or something.

When I called Rogers they said that the premium messages where sent by a third party and the extra charge had nothing to do with them. This puzzled me, when had I authorized this and did they have it in writing?

They said that my daughter must have answered yes to a spam she received on her cell phone. “That’s it,” I wonder? I have to give Rogers 4 pieces of information so they will talk to me about my account, but one button push on her phone allows a flood of spam I have to pay for?

So I did some quick research today, and anyone with information to add should feel free to do so.

There is a website called that sends out text message invitations for people to register for free. These messages appear to come from your friends, as they harvest accounts from other friend’s address books. I don’t know if my daughter signed up or not, she says not, but is not known for her memory. There is no mention that future messages will be sent at a furious rate, at a cost of 40 cents each.

They then start sending messages to your phone that anyone would consider spam. My daughter started complaining about receiving these messages and asked how to stop them. I told her to phone Rogers. Never in a million years did I consider that I might be paying 40 cents each for this waste of bandwidth.

So when I phone Rogers to complain they say these bills have nothing to do with them. I point out that this company has a write up on Roger’s web site, collects their money through Roger’s bills (which I’m sure Rogers get a cut of), on a cellular system which Rogers owns.

I am surprised how unsympathetic Rogers is. They seem to think receiving hundreds of text messages with no contract and no authorization other than their assertion that we pushed a button is perfectly reasonable. Rogers evidently put in a form to stop these messages, and on my request gave us $50 towards customer good will. I wanted $200.

As I go to previous bills I see that we have been charged 87, 56, 21 and 8.50 in previous months. I noticed the 87, and had my daughter pay it, but thought it was for things like ring tones and games. No where are the premium services itemized. So we have paid about $400 to for spam.

So feel free to tell me how stupid I was for not scrutinizing our bills closer. In my defence these bill are 20 pages long of micro print and the bill in question is on one line.

I know this kind of business practice would never fly in most areas of business. I looked on the Internet and saw some rage against and Rogers, but not the ground swell I would have expected. I will probably still write to Rogers, and maybe to the BBB and Gov’t so there is at least a record of this practice.

Any suggestions or similar experiences are welcome. How do I stick it to the man?

Write to Rogers and the BBB, but I would also add that you should write a letter to the FTC. And the most important, write a letter to your state’s Attorney General, as well as the attorney general for the state the is in and the state Rogers is based in.
Assuming nothing becomes of it, vote with your money and find another provider. If your in a contract, wait until it’s over and switch.

I would do what Joey P already said.

I’ve felt that cell phones should be required to be governed at the provider to disallow minors from ever being able to enter illegally into contracts like this. The parents calling in on their phones being the only way the kids can sign up for extras, or some other method.

from what i’ve heard, is just an evil, evil company. they’re pure spam just disguised by some ‘legit’ corporate status.

eta: they actually called me once to interview for a job. i looked them up just to find out how many horror stories there are, just like yours.

Don’t most states require anyone entering into a contract to be of legal age, usually 18? How on earth could this be enforceable? I know when I worked at a video store, we couldn’t give minors their own accounts, because nothing they signed was binding. Seems like the same thing ought to apply here. Since the spam company can’t know that an adult was pushing the “yes” button, how can their contract be valid and enforceable?

(IANAL, I am merely a parent with a due share of RO)

Sue 'em in your local small claims court. Both & Rogers.

Most likely they won’t show up to the case, so you win by default. Otherwise you can tell your story to the judge/referee, who’s likely to be sympathetic. Demand to see the ‘contract’ where you or your daughter agreed to this. Do point out that your daughter is under the legal age to make a binding contract. Etc.

After you win, you then have the problem of collecting your judgement. But you have an advantage here – you know how to reach Rogers, and you know that they collect money on behalf of So you ought to be able to collect.

P.S. After you win, and force them to pay, Rogers may drop you as a customer. So what? No great loss to you – I’d already be looking for another provider, anyway.

I got scammed by as well. It was my own fault though. I received an email apparantly from a lady friend of mine recommending to keep in touch. I recognised it was a bit spammy but went to the website anyway. Then I went oooh, free text messages! So I signed up and started receiving unsolicited texts from It was a good six months before I finally realised that I was actually being charged for these things. I was only receiving a couple a week, enough to keep under my bill radar.

To their credit, I was actually able to cancel my account with and the messages stopped.

Just so everyone knows, Mikemike2 is in Canada, so keep that in mind when talking about suing this and state’s attorney that, since their legal system is different than ours (though I don’t really know by how much, but I imagine they have equivalent things.)

This points up a flaw in the text-message system: we need to be able to reject unwanted messages and not get charged for them. I wonder what phone number they appeared to be coming from?.

The CRTC is probably the most appropriate body with legal muscle. I suspect (but am prepared to be proven wrong) is that they are the only ones with the legal muscle to do anything; however calling your MP and local TV stations (try to get onto a “trouble shooter” section of your local news) would probably help a lot. And, yes, we do have small claims court up here, although I’m dubious whether that would be a useful route to go.

Maybe its something about SMSac , but does your plan not allow free incoming text an only pay for outgoing ?

Declan texts are a “premium” service that attracts a fee regardless of you normally pay for incoming texts.

GRRRR- I bought a prepaid service in Australia. It was only $30- fair enough. That afternoon I started to get all weird text messages- every few days- sort of like horoscopes. I just deleted them. Then I was told my account was down to about $2. They charged $5 or something for each of these. I never agreed, never signed up, nor did I want this crap. I was glad I was only on a $30 plan.

Yeah, but my husband just got his daughters cell phones on his plan, so they’re technically in his name. Some family plan thing. So when they go over their minutes, it’s on his bill. It’s only been two weeks, but I’ll be interested to see how this “family plan” proceeds. One kid is a minor, and the other is not. Neither one had to sign anything, but husband accepted full responsibility when he added those phones to his plan. Now he’s on the hook for whatever they choose to do with them.

(I don’t remember who it was who posted in another thread a day or two ago, about how his pre-teen wanted a cell phone because all her friends had one. She tried that “My friends all have one. What if I need to call you?” and the Dad said, “Borrow your friend’s phone.” I loved that response, and I’ve memorized it to use on my own kids.)

Exactly the same story. I thought initially that I was accidently hitting one of the hot keys and inadvertently dialing up to the net. I never in my dreams thought that I was being charged for incoming messages. Never read them. Just deleted them. Only a couple of months later when I enquired as to why my prepay was going down so fast did I discover that they were siphoning off my account at $2 a message coming two at a time.

Then they had the cheek to charge me $2 to unsubscribe fro their “premium service”. Not amused,.

Thanks for the replies so far. My daughter is no longer a minor, but I’m not sure if that matters since the contract I signed says I am responible for everything. I’m not sure what Rogers allowed on their system is illegal, it is just a really sleazy business practice. It seems “premium services” where set up just to allow this scam to be carried out and to bypass those phones that aren’t signed up for text messages. I will write a letter to Rogers setting out what I said in the OP and switch my service to Telus or some other.

I get that, but isn’t that the contract between Cell Phone Company and Gypsy’sDude? This sounds like a legal arrangement made between TextJerks and Gypsy’sKid. TextJerks never had any agreement with Gyspdy’sDude or anyone of legal age to enter into a contract.

Or are Cell Phone Company and TextJerks the same folks?

I’d be changing providers the same day, if that happened to me. Then I’d write them a flurry of letters. Probably one a day. That would piss me off so bad. How can these companies get away with this stuff???

Outrageous. If this happened to me I’d be so pissed. I would go down there, wherever there is. They do *not * want me to come down there.

Do let us know if anything ever comes of this.

Send your story to The Consumerist. Its readers send in horror stories like this all the time about all sorts of scams. I haven’t seen anything specifically like this on there lately, so they would probably be very interested. The publicity is often helpful in getting things resolved.