03/17/2013 12:00 EDT | Updated 03/17/2013 12:02 EDT

MTS Allstream Charged Me $28.42 For Downloading A Single Photo, Customer Says

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TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY SOREN BILLING: This photo illustration shows a woman as she uses the iPhone application of Swedish music streaming service Spotify on March 7, 2013 in Stockholm, Sweden. Sweden is at the forefront of a global recovery in music sales driven by streaming music services such as Spotify. AFP PHOTO/JONATHAN NACKSTRAND (Photo credit should read JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images)

A Manitoba wireless customer says he’s looking into switching phone companies after being charged more than $28 for downloading a single photo onto his cellphone.

Freelance photographer Jon Gill says he was “pretty shocked” when he found out his cellphone plan with MTS Allstream, which does not include a data plan, charges 7 cents per kilobyte.

That amounted to $28.42 for a single picture of a friend’s newborn baby that he downloaded to his phone in February.

“For $28.42 I could have a picture printed to poster size and delivered by mail and probably still have money left for a cup of tea,” he wrote in an email to HuffPost.

Gill says MTS removed the charge after he called to complain, and the company also disabled data downloads on his phone, but “my contract with them is up and I will not be renewing.”

He says he had no choice but to download the photo because his phone offers only “view now” or “view later” options for incoming photos.

What’s more, Gill did some digging into his contract details and found it would have been much less expensive if he had downloaded the picture while roaming in the U.S., instead of at home in Manitoba.

“The same picture downloaded while roaming in the United States would have only been $6.24,” he told HuffPost in an email.

For customers without a data plan, MTS charges 1.5 cents per kilobyte for downloading data while roaming in the U.S., just more than one-fifth the rate it charges at home. However, roaming charges aren’t capped, while local data charges are capped at $50 per month.

“If they concocted a similar pricing scheme for voice plans, calls would cost $5 a second with the cap kicking in after 10 seconds for a maximum of $50 a month,” Gill wrote.

An MTS Allstream spokesperson said the rate Gill paid would “would only apply in very few situations. The majority of our customers subscribe to data plans that cost a lot less than the rate quoted.”

She added that “customers can add unlimited data and unlimited [texting] at reasonable monthly fees.”

Gill says he thinks MTS charges exorbitant rates to non-data customers in order to push them into buying data plans.

It “make[s] it financially impossible to be a casual data user, even if you want to use it once a month,” he wrote.

“The main portion of the MTS website is strongly pushing smartphones with data plans, which have much more lucrative billing opportunities. They don't even list voice plans on the main wireless page anymore,” he wrote.

The CRTC, Canada’s telecom regulator, is currently at work on developing a code of conduct for wireless providers.

A recent study of cellphone service complaints by the consumer advocacy group OpenMedia found that “notification of additional fees” was the single largest complaint against wireless providers. Questions around “clarity of advertised prices” and “clarity of contract terms and conditions” were the second and third most common complaints.

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