Former U student involved in class action lawsuit

Molly Blocker, a former University student, is among six plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against international cell phone provider PicCell Wireless , which claims she owes $1,377.41 between late fees and unpaid bills from a London study abroad trip. Attorneys from Schroeter, Goldmark and Bender, a Seattle-based firm, filed the suit against the company Sept. 25 in United States District Court. Seattle-based PicCell offers phone services in more than 25 countries to help study abroad students and world travelers. They offer phones for rent or sale and service packages tailored for those going abroad. Blocker, now a first-semester nursing student at North Hennepin Community College, accused PicCell Wireless of charging roaming rates not expressed in the contract. âÄúThere would be times on my bill that it said a call lasted zero seconds, but I was charged varying amounts,âÄù she said. The billing information was available online, and Blocker said she noticed the problems when she began to travel away from where she was studying in London. âÄúThey had given us a rate sheet so I had personally tracked how much I thought I would owe and it was over double that when I received my bill,âÄù Blocker said, adding that her bill was only available online. According to the complaint, the billing sheets feature the currency of the particular country the user is traveling to. PicCell, whose mission is to âÄúmake it easy and affordable for anyone to have and use a wireless device while they are abroad,âÄù misled the plaintiffs, according to the complaint. Blocker said she receives e-mails about her balance, and said she cancelled her credit card to prevent PicCell from taking the money. Adam Berger of Schroeter, Goldmark and Bender is the lead attorney on the case. âÄúOne of the reasons we believe that this is an important suit is because it affects study abroad students âĦ who donâÄôt necessarily have the experience to know when a company is misleading them,âÄù he said. He said the company charged illegal invisible fees. The rates on the contract were in euros or pounds, but people saw the charges on credit cards in dollars, he said. Since the charges switch in currency, PicCell can invisibly change the exchange rate, Berger said, but if the company had mentioned a rate increase, it would not be a legal concern. Berger said PicCell, which he said has around 30,000 customers, and its attorneys have not yet answered the complaint. He expects PicCell to reply in the coming weeks, he said. The trial may not start until 2010 because cases usually see a trial 18 months after being filed, Berger said. The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory, statutory and treble damages, which could increase the award up to three times. They also want a declaration from PicCell that they violated a Washington consumer protection and fair credit act.