By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — These days, we use our cell phones for all kinds of things, from searching the web to watching movies. Things like texts and emails are common services for typical phone plans. But if you’re traveling, don’t assume they’re part of the package or, as 3-On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan found, you may be in for one expensive wake up call.

Earlier this week we told you that cell phone companies have pledged to warn customers when they’re about to exceed their plan usage. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other things that could lead to bill shock.

On a recent business trip to Canada Lee Frankel got more than he bargained for when his family sent him photos and messages on his cell phone. He says, “I could hear in my pocket the ding, ding, ding as the texts kept coming in and the photos kept coming in.”

Lee was charged close to $70 in roaming fees even though he never even opened them. Frankel says, “I don’t think it is fair. I think the fees are exorbitant. I have been given the excuse that they have to pay the cell phone provider abroad to use the network.”

If your cell phone is on, your data is still being delivered. Even if you never use your phone,you are being charged international roaming fees for any incoming data. Rod Davis with the Council of Better Business Bureaus says, “It can be shocking. Consumers have their phones on, they think if I don’t take an email. If I don’t look at any of my ims, I am not going to incur any roaming fees, but they do and we have seen some bills in the upwards of hundreds of dollars.”

The Federal Communications Commission has heard from customers who were hit with unexpected roaming fees. Mindel De La Torre, chief of the FCC’s international bureau says, “There was one particular complaint that was over $65,000. that is more than a lot of people make in a whole year.”

To avoid unexpected roaming charges have your cell phone company turn off your data while you’re gone. Rent a phone or buy a sim card from the country you are visiting so that you are charged their local rates or at the very least look into international plans.

Remember to always get your plan in writing to avoid costly cell charges. If you end up slammed with extra charges, try to negotiate a credit or refund to your next bill for the overage. The Better Business Bureau tells us some of the companies have been good about that in the past.

Reported by Jim Donovan, CBS 3

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