Family Racks Up $13,470 Bill For Half Hour Of iPhone Internet Usage

woman with iPhone
Kaspars Grinvalds / shutterstock

For the Chung family from San Jose, California, their trip to Vietnam was carefully planned out. They had their itinerary in order. They brought along goodies for the family reunion they were going to attend, and they made sure that all of their cellphones were set to airplane mode so they wouldn’t run the risk of incurring a big bill for data usage, just as T-Mobile suggests their customers do when traveling abroad if they are in an area not covered by one of their plans. Despite their best efforts on the technology front, things didn’t go as planned.

When the Chungs returned home with souvenirs and memories of their family gathering, they also returned home to a $13,740 phone bill for internet usage on their son Nicolas’ T-Mobile iPhone, according to ABC7. Vivian Chung was in shock over the bill and checked with her son to see if he had switched his phone out of airplane mode at any time during the trip. He insisted that he had not, and only used it to play chess offline while they were on the flight.

After checking her son’s phone and then calling T-Mobile, it was discovered that all of the charges were incurred over no more than a half hour or so. Even if he had used data, it was hard to imagine that a half hour of data could cost almost $14,000. After some negotiation, T-Mobile agreed to waive some of the bill, reducing it to $3,800, which Chung still thought was out of line.

“We know we cannot use the phone and it’s always on airplane mode. How could this happen? How can this phone bill, like $13,740.19 in one half hour? Oh, my god we almost fainted. I say this costs more than the trip.”

Chung checked with her son again, and he assured her that he had not taken his iPhone out of airplane mode. It was then that she reached out to ABC 7 News for help taking on T-Mobile. After ABC7 contacted T-Mobile, they couldn’t, or wouldn’t offer any explanation for the bill other than Vietnam isn’t covered under their plan. Rather than face negative press, T-Mobile did waive the remainder of the bill and noted that they had added Vietnam to their coverage plan.

As for how the charges generated in the first place, it appears that even when many games and apps are used in airplane or “offline mode,” many of them run data in the background still to send ads, refresh social media, and run updates. Just to be safe when traveling, on an iPhone, go to settings, then look under Cellular Data, and switch the data use to the OFF position.