Jose Rivera is a U.S. solider currently deployed in Afghanistan. He's also the father of a newborn baby, and husband to a wife being treated for heart trouble. English isn't his first language, and according to CNet , all of these factors played a role in racking up a $16,000 cell phone bill with AT&T.
Cell phone bill shock isn't a new phenomenon, and in Rivera's case, it appears he was confused about a $4.95/month add-on that he was told would allow him to make international calls to his wife. But what he didn't understand is that those calls would cost $5/minute, and about 50 cents per text message.
"While he should have realized that $4.95 a month was probably too good to be true, he is a young soldier with minimal experience with phone plans or overseas travel," said Capt. Evan Brainerd, Rivera's commanding officer.
Brainerd decided to fight on Rivera's behalf and claims that no one at AT&T ever warned the young soldier about his fast growing phone bill.
"I have been disgusted by the way our soldiers have been treated, and largely ignored by AT&T's customer service throughout our efforts to resolve this problem," Brainerd wrote in a letter to AT&T. "I am certainly not claiming that our soldier, PFC Rivera, is blameless and should not pay to a certain extent for his phone usage. However, $16,000 (every penny that this soldier and his family can hope to save during the course of this 1 year deployment) is a gross injustice."
Brainerd's frustration fueled his persistence, and in the end, AT&T has decided to waive the charges.
"We are crediting the family's entire bill," an AT&T spokesperson told CNet.