According to the Sunday Times one couple got more than they bargained for courtesy of the almost extortionate charges that mobile phone companies are allowed to levy in Europe when it comes to sending text or data while 'roaming' away from your home country. Although the case in question might be a little out of the ordinary, it does serve to highlight just how ridiculous the situation has been allowed to become. Mrs X decided to download no less than four episodes of the sitcom Friends via the unlimited broadband service on the mobile phone belonging to Mr X. Not as daft as it may sound, the episodes had been made available for free download and if Mr X had not needed to travel to Germany from the UK on business before the downloads had completed there would have been no additional charges made.
Unfortunately, unaware that the videos were even being sent Mr X switched his phone on upon arrival in Germany and the downloads continued for another 12 hours in total at a cost, are you ready for this, of £11,000 ($22,000) in all.
The mobile network concerned has conceded that the fact Mr X had traveled abroad complicated matters, meaning that the automatic trigger to inform a customer that a charge quota limit had been surpassed took rather longer than when compared to the event happening at home.
The European Union commissioner for Information, Society and Media is not taking this laying down. Indeed, Viviane Reding has told all mobile phone companies in Europe that they have until July 1st and no longer in order to get their act together and reduce the fees charged for text and data roaming. He has gone on record as stating that there is no reason why such an action should cost substantially more than doing the same while in your home nation. ""Higher retail charges abroad must be justified or they will have to disappear" Reding insists.
Mr and Mrs X do not hold the record for amazingly high mobile phone bills for downloading TV shows though, in fact The Mirror newspaper reported a case last year of a man running up a £27,000 ($54,000) bill for just four weeks service. Ian Simpson, a factory worker, managed to accomplish this feat by using it as a modem to download TV shows to his laptop under the mistaken belief that his £41 ($82) per month contract covered this. When he got the bill he discovered he was not, in fact, covered for such unlimited web data downloads by his particular plan despite paying a £7.50 ($15) fee for unlimited Internet surfing as part of the deal. His bill showed that some of his data downloading was costing an astonishing £18 ($36) per minute. After downloading around 30 TV shows in their entirety, as well as four music albums, his connection was cut off. When he called Vodafone to inquire about his service he got the shocking news about the bill. Apparently his unlimited data account had a ceiling of 120Mb per month which would have been swallowed up very quickly indeed.
I don't have a lot of sympathy for money grabbing mobile phone networks, but I have to say that I have little sympathy for users who fail to check the details of the service they are signed up to before using it either. You can't take a car on the motorway without passing a driving test, perhaps there should be something similar for idiots and mobile phones…