If anyone knows of a way to file a complaint with the FCC, it sounds like a good place to start, to try to get some changes to pricing policy. Are there reliable, full service carriers GSM carriers other than Cingular and T-Mobile?
Just switched from Sprint to T-Mobile in order to be able to use my phone abroad. Compared plans, service and options and ended up at T-Mobile.
But you're thinking of doing the same and it's for personal use, and not reimbursable as a business expense, BEWARE.
Sometimes it's the small stuff that can be the most annoying. In this case, SMS (text messages) are supposed to be $0.05 domestically or for incoming messages and $0.15 for international messages. I asked if that meant from abroad as well, and told yes. When I got my bill, it turns out that while roaming abroad, the SMSs are really $0.35. After searching the T-Mobile website for about 15 minutes, I finally found the 35 cent quote - about 150 messages later! (note: sending a simple "How've you been" to 10 people also counts as and is billed as 10 separate messages - which is fair.)
When I spoke to customer service on three occasions, they were intially very bubbly, professional and courteous, but seemed to have no clue about international charges other than what was on their computer screen scripted answer. Then when I noticed that while I was in Brussels and London, I had a mix of $0.15 and $0.35 charges. I asked if it had to do with incoming versus outgoing messages. The service rep's tone got impatient, telling me the cheaper message was transmitted from a NYC cell tower. I asked how that was possible if I was in Brussels, and she was audibly annoyed, saying it could only go through a NYC cell tower if my phone made contact. I pointed out that a message sent 4 hours later originated in Brussels and there was no way I could get between NYC and Belgium that fast, and there must be another reason for the pricing difference. She got fed up and submitted a Billing Research inquiry, letting me know if I was undercharged, I'd probably be re-billed the higher rate. All I was trying to do was figure out what messages are billed at what rate, so I don't run up a huge bill. $0.15/msg - OK; $0.35/msg - I'll send an e-mail, thank you very much.
But then around the same time, I was in the Dominican Republic, where the roaming charges are $1.99/min. (When I got the service, it was promoted as $0.99/min around the world. Not quite; in even advanced countries like Brazil, the roaming charges are as high as $2.99/min in Russia, it's $4.99/min.)
I tried calling my voicemail, but got a series of computer bleeps and tones (but not like a fax or modem), and the call never connected. Then the service provider, Orange Dominicana, rings back to my phone - 3 times. Same bleeps and clicks, but no intelligible sound. When I get the bill, somehow it's charged as $12. Small peanuts, right? But it adds up when it's on your own dime.
The frustrating part, is that roaming on T-Mobile Wireless IS AT YOUR OWN RISK!!! They make no guarantees ($300 in phone bills later) about roaming service. They offer no rebate, credit or assistance with calls made (or not made but charged) on a roaming network. I tried to explain that as an individual, it would cost me more in international calling fees to call the provider (not to mention getting a Spanish interpreter) to explain the situation with no idea if they'd be able to cancel the roaming fees charged to T-Mobile and then charged back to me. It's getting kind of lame, at this point.
I mentioned to a supervisor, that while it's not T-Mobile's responsibility to guarantee call completion while roaming, since T-Mobile has already negotiated agreements with the foreign carriers, it should be easier for T-Mobile to be able to investigate interrupted, incomplete or erroneous calls. When I mentioned that T-Mobile surely wasn't being charged the full $2 they were charging me to roam, I asked if I could even receive a credit to get that roaming time at cost; no money lost for T-Mobile and a happeir customer. But it was way over her head. Yes, I'm expecting too much, but is it absurd to expect that I wouldn't have to pay for service that hasn't been provided? The fact that they don't "guarantee" calls on another carrier might be realistic, but poor business. As a Sprint PCS customer, if I had a dropped call (domestically), the automated customer support system could recognize the request and issue an immediate credit - no questions asked. Dropped call? Forty cent credit to my account, whether I used all my minutes or not.
The situation was made all the worse by the fact that I expected to be able to get the Treo 650 GSM phone in early January through T-Mobile. But as of late February, there's no sign they ever will, and talk of them foregoing the 650 in favor of a next model due out perhaps in the summer.
I thought it might be worth just swallowing the $250 end-your-contract fee and switching to Cingular to get the phone I want, more competent customer service and less aggregious fees while abroad. Then I looked at Cingular's fees, and Intl roaming starts at $1.29/min in Europe, and each international SMS costs $0.50.
The lesson of the story: globally speaking, cell phone service and useability lags significantly behind the available technology, and we seem to be stuck with what we got. Just beware if you're new to international roaming and it coming out of your own paycheck.