"It has literally been a nightmare, dealing with this," said customer Jane Goundrey of White Rock, B.C.
She said on her street, the signal provided by her provider, Rogers Wireless, cannot compete with the powerful signal from AT&T in the state of Washington, and her family's phones automatically switch to the U.S. network, running up a bill for roaming charges.
Goundrey said the root of the problem is inadequate service from Rogers.
"When I turn my roaming off I do not have any cellphone coverage. Rogers does not have a cell tower here that does work," she said.
Rogers has acknowledged the problem, spokeswoman Sara Holland saying, "Network signal overlaps can happen near the U.S. border. It's an industry-wide challenge and unfortunately can affect our customers."
Critics say many Canadians living near the border are frustrated by Canadian wireless carriers who inadequately invest in cell towers, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported Tuesday.
"There isn't a whole lot of economic incentive to the telcom companies to fix this once and for all," said industry analyst Carmi Levy. "Every time a mistake (a bill for accidental roaming) is made, if a consumer doesn't raise a flag or doesn't raiser the antenna, then that's additional revenue for these companies."