Confused Consumers

The Height of Illusion

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Companies are using tracking technology and hidden charges to rip off consumers.

  • Facts


    • Roaming fees charged by mobile phone providers are about to be banned by the European Union.
    • The VW emissions scandal is an example of a hidden rip-off, where software was designed to quietly deceive emissions testing stations and, ultimately, the consumer.
    • Many supposedly free services, such as free game on the Internet, entail costs when consumers opt for a higher level of service.
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If there is one thing I can’t reproach Deutsche Telekom for, it’s lack of transparency. I had hardly left home recently when I received the following text message on my iPad: “Your international data usage has exceeded €21.04.”

But then the company added this businesslike statement: “This information may be delayed and may therefore deviate from actual usage.” In other words, it’s perfectly possible that the facts are completely different, which, in this case, could only mean: much more expensive, and the text message is reaching me like the light from a star that imploded millions of years ago – which may also be what my bank account has just done.

In moments like this, what is a responsible consumer to do? My first reaction was to desperately search for WLAN hotspots and switch off anything that could somehow suck data out of the Web. Still, I kept getting new text messages, and the only funny thing about them were the occasionally odd amounts: €48.03, €63.21, €80.

I don’t want to upset my employer unnecessarily here, but the costs kept rising within only four days. I had neither streamed Hollywood movies night after night, nor was I traveling in Outer Mongolia. In fact, all I did was sit in the mountains of Switzerland, one of Europe’s high-wage countries, and read

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