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Montreal family hopes their phone bill nightmare can warn others

WATCH: Mobile phones must be reported stolen immediately because charges incurred on them are the responsibility of the contract owner.

Jared Hillel was on a beach in Barcelona when his phone went missing.

He tried to get in touch with his father back in Montreal, but several hours passed before he could successfully do so.

“We got a text message back from him saying his phone was stolen,” Jared’s father Philip Hillel told Global News.

“So basically what we did is we called Videotron and we just cancelled his phone.”

To his surprise, Hillel received a $1,554 phone bill a few days later.

It showed that between the time Jared’s phone went missing and the time his service was canceled ⁠— just seven hours ⁠— 36 hours of phone calls had been made. Many of them at the same time.

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“Some calls were like 10 minutes long, 15 minutes long, but they were still able to make other calls while this call was going. So that was sort of what raised a suspicion that this is impossible,” he said.

READ MORE: As wireless plans’ costs dip, device prices are shooting up

He reached out to the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-Television services (CCTS), but after a lengthy review, they ruled in favour of the provider, stating that it operated within its rights.

“I really did think that the ruling was going to be in our favour because it was so obvious that something was off,” said Jared, who now lives in Nova Scotia.

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According to the Union des Consommateurs, users must notify their wireless provider as soon as their phone goes missing, but they still bear the cost.

“They should be aware that even if the phone is stolen or if they lose the phone, this has no impact on the contract they have with the service provider, meaning the contract will continue to apply,” said Anais Beaulieu-Laporte, a telecom analyst at the Union des Consommateurs.

In a recent report, the CCTS reported a 44 per cent increase in complaints about service providers.

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To avoid “bill shock” like the one experienced by the Hillels, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) imposes a cap on what can be charged for overuse of data.

First, a service provider must notify the account holder when a device is roaming in another country, and the notification must clearly explain the associated rates for voice, text messaging, and data services.

READ MORE: Canadian telecoms used misleading, aggressive sales practices, CRTC inquiry rules

They must also suspend national and international data roaming charges once they reach $100 and data overage charges once they reach $50 in a single monthly bill cycle.

The account holder can, however, consent to pay an additional charge, in which case the service is restored. 

But there are no such caps when it comes to voice roaming charges.

Hillel paid the bill, but hopes for change.

“They should have a system that monitors and that is programmed that if something suspicious is happening, they could just stop the service and contact the people,” he said.

In a statement, Videotron told Global News that when excessive use happens on outside networks, there can be a lag before they are notified and can take action.

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