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Google Voice Fails, Costs T-Mobile Customer $700



Google Voice can be a life saver for long distance calls on your smartphone, when the Google Voice app fails, you could be left with a hefty bill and no recourse. Sophie makes a good number of calls to France every month. She uses Google Voice to complete the calls at .02 cents per minute, a very reasonable rate. Last month though, her bill was $700 more than expected because a failure somewhere in the process sent the calls over T-Mobile’s network, at a much higher rate.

Google Voice Breakdown

The calls should have been sent through Google Voice’s service. According to Sophie, the proper notification was played each time, but the calls don’t show up on her Google Voice call history. Sophie has been working with T-Mobile and Google Voice, but so far both companies are pointing the finger, and T-Mobile wants their money, though they are giving her time to sort the mess out instead of cutting off her service. Sophie writes to the Consumerist,

I just received my t-mobile bill, which is about $700 higher than usual. I have been using google voice on my cell phone (Tmobile G2) to call the same French numbers I have been calling for months. However, this time, it seems that most of my call were handled by t-mobile instead of google voice. I haven’t changed any setting on my phone, and every time I call, I hear the little message saying that it’s using google voice and I’m being charged 0.02 cents/minute. When I look at my calling history on google voice, most of my calls never occurred but they sure did occur on my t-mobile bill. Google Voice does not having any customer service except for the online forum, I started a thread. I then contacted Tmobile to let them know that there was a problem with my bill and ask them to look into it and put a note in my file that I am in the process of asking GoogleVoice to solvie it but that in the meantime, I will only pay the portion of my bill I usually pay every month. Well for anybody who has the same problem, here’s Tmobile’s first answer: “Upon reviewing the records the calls look like they are coming directly from the device itself. If the third party Google Application is not working correctly the issue will need to be reviewed by them.” Here’s Google Voice’s answer (off-thread of course): “If these calls don’t show up in your Google Voice call records (available online), they were not made through Google Voice. Looking into the bill you’ve attached and comparing against these records, it would appear correct that T-Mobile is billing you for these international calls appropriately. In the future, please make absolutely sure that the Google Voice prompt plays before your international calls to ensure you’re not billed on the carrier end. Please consult this help article: Specifically, take these steps to correctly make an international call
 through Google Voice:
 1. Call your access number from a mobile phone registered on your account.
 2. Once you’re in the Google Voice system, press 2 to make a call
 3. When dialing an international number, enter 011, the country code, and
 then the number (for example: 011442012345612345).

Google Voice FailOther users are reporting similar issues with Google Voice not properly handling international calls, resulting in bigger cell phone bills. These cases may be a minority, but they highlight a real issue for the popular Google Voice service and the bigger issue of who is at fault when an app failure results in a big cell phone bill.

Tip of the Iceberg

Up until now, we haven’t seen many issues where an app has been the culprit, but with more advanced apps handling telephony and texting services, as well as using tiered data plans, it’s bound to become more common. Because the carrier and the app maker have no relation, it may be difficult for overcharged consumers to get closure. I have to wonder if Sophie would have had better luck with this error if she was using Sprint, which has tightly integrated Google Voice with their smartphones. As more carriers include apps in branded app stores and allow for carrier billing from App stores these boundaries and liabilities to solve problems will continue to shift and need definitions. Hopefully the industry will gather together to form some means of moderating disputes which put the customer in between two companies when it comes to apps and third-party services. We have reached out to T-Mobile and Google for comment, but did not receive a response at the time this post went live.



  1. Anonymous

    07/29/2011 at 5:16 pm

    Use Google services at your own RISK! 

    • Anonymous

      07/30/2011 at 8:40 pm

      Whose risk do you use other services at?

    • emster

      08/03/2011 at 4:21 pm

      I do. They’re fine. Move on…

  2. Anonymous

    07/29/2011 at 11:00 pm

    It could be like the Audi’s sudden acceleration issue they had years ago, back then it was the stupid drivers. 

    For this is could be the users.  I’m sure you can see every call you make with t-mobil on-line.  I guess a good way to check would be to record each call, and then check after the call to make sure it was on Goggle Voice.  If it wasn’t and the Goggle voice prompt played, you should be able to fight it.

    My vote is on stupid user tricks though….

  3. Wanker

    07/31/2011 at 4:24 pm

    User error most definitely

  4. Kristine

    08/12/2011 at 4:31 pm

    Uh yea. I-D-10-T error. How can you not know if your calling your Gv # and pressing prompts to call out? Besides, you would think the owner would be really cautious about checking GV since France is billable calls even through GV. I call BS on this story, and either the user is an idiot or a liar.

    • Kai

      12/25/2012 at 9:54 am

      No way, pretty much the same thing happened to me this month. $500 plus bill.

  5. Kristine

    08/12/2011 at 4:32 pm

    Uh yea. I-D-10-T error. How can you not know if your calling your Gv # and pressing prompts to call out? Besides, you would think the owner would be really cautious about checking GV since France is billable calls even through GV. I call BS on this story, and either the user is an idiot or a liar.

  6. Micromax Mobile Phones

    08/25/2011 at 6:23 am

    Generally it is very rare that Google’s any application gets failed. Google is one of the best search engine and it is the best email service provider also.

  7. Lijiesteve

    01/12/2012 at 9:55 pm

    I have the same problem with my iphone 4. And AT&T send me bill which asked for $980. I got mad.

    • Kai

      12/25/2012 at 10:00 am

      Did you get your bill waived? We should do something regard this issue. My carrier is T-mobile. My email is [email protected] if you don’t mind, please send your contact info there.

  8. Simone Capuano

    01/23/2012 at 9:32 pm

    It totally a bug I got the same problem on my tmobile bill!

    • Ranojoy

      07/13/2012 at 10:52 am

      I have a another problem, whenever I call a US number (say A) from my t mobile phone. I get charged by t mobile for another number B and I see the number A on google voice call history. Any suggestion ? I thought GV is free for US calls

  9. Adnan

    07/18/2012 at 8:16 pm

    I just got a bill for $238 plus charges in usage charges for international calls from T-Mobile. Have been using Google Voice for almost 15 months and this is first time and I am faced with this problem. Searched the web and found that I am not alone for having this problem. I guess there is a bug in GV app. Called T-Mobile but they say to call Google Voice since the calls went through their network. I guess they are right but do not know how to resolve this issue since GV shows that the calls did not go through their account. I am stuck and will end up in paying the bill, I guess. I do not have time but I hope somebody sues Google and make them pay for this bug since it is costing may people a fortune.

  10. darkagetech

    07/26/2012 at 5:57 pm

    All corporations will point fingers its just part of the politics. Recording the call is a excellent recommendation as is checking your call logs in both systems. Gather enough live examples of failed calls and submit it to the engineers eventually a real solution can be found.

    One last note Kristine try being a little more constructive your the REAL I D 10 T for putting the blame on the end user so quickly and choosing to infer that the individual is either a liar or an idiot.

  11. Vinh Hoang

    09/21/2012 at 11:57 am

    used Google voice to call a family member in the same plan, and got charged $1251. T-mobile replied that they are not responsible for GV.

    True strory!

    • Kai

      12/25/2012 at 10:06 am

      I know it’s true. I got a $500+ bill from T-mobile from international calls. What actions have you taken to defend your right.

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