When it comes to “gotcha” fees, the cellular phone industry makes travel companies look like rank amateurs.

Take what happened to P. Morgan Brown when his wife decided to take a spur-of-the-moment vacation to Indonesia. Her Verizon bill came to a staggering $8,000. Text messages home cost and astounding $2.50 each and the meter was running at an eye-popping $1.75 a minute for phone calls.

“We almost missed a mortgage payment when the auto-withdrawal for the first bill came through and wiped out our checking account,” says Brown, who works for an Internet company in Aliso Viejo, Calif. “What a waste of money.”

Stories like his are becoming more common, according to cellular industry experts — despite some governments’ best efforts to contain these exorbitant fees. “The main reason is that people are using their phones more for data than voice calls,” says Azita Arvani, a wireless industry consultant based in Los Angeles. With a conventional call, users can gauge the cost per minute and adjust their talk time. But gauging data use isn’t as straightforward. An e-mail, Web site or video can gobble up a lot more bandwidth than you’d think.

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  • Elliott

    Christopher Elliott has been called one of the world’s leading travel experts. But his focus isn’t on the destination, or ev…

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