Sympathies for poor Brit with huge cell phone bill

This story sounds familiar:

Ian Simpson, 29, was sent the bill for four weeks’ service after wiring his mobile up to a laptop to download TV shows – and only then found out his £41.50-a-month deal didn’t include unlimited web use.

His bill with Vodafone was something like $54,000 US$.

Why familiar? Because AT&T (then Cingular) has the same deal. I never used my phone as a modem, but I did get hit with a large bill one month and was informed then that the charges would have been legit had I been using the phone as a modem (I wasn’t).

Vodafone owes this guy a break. If their policies are written anything like AT&T’s, then it’s anything but clear. On the other hand, it doesn’t appear as if he had an “unlimited” plan to begin with. Ouch.

I don’t see why providers can’t do what credit cards do when there are unusual spending patterns. They should be able to figure out what’s a “typical” usage pattern and if a user has a month that’s significantly off some sort of trigger is alerted. Maybe an automated email that says, “hey buddy, do you realize your bill is now 3x what it was last month?” would have been an expensive awakening but not nearly the ridiculous sum it ended up.

If you have a phone with a regular ‘ole data plan, just don’t do it…use your as a modem, that is. There are too many of these stories out there, and the providers are hit & miss on enforcing their murky policies against it.

If you do want to tether your phone to your computer and use it as a modem anyway, then do it sparingly. If you’re stranded somewhere and must get data on a server somewhere, fine. Not for casual surfing. In the long run, if you absolutely need to go online with your computer and don’t have reliable access points, I can say from personal experience that a decent EVDO modem & plan is well worth the $60/month for wireless-without-wifi Internet.


3 responses to “Sympathies for poor Brit with huge cell phone bill”

  1. This does seem a bit weird. I’ve only ever been a corporate user of Vodafone but when I was traveling a lot with O2 and Orange they were pretty quick to shut off my service if I hit certain limits. It could get pretty frustrating as, when roaming, the charge records tend to come in batches so you could go over the limits in a day when a week’s worth of roaming hit the account.

    Having done dev work with PAYG GPRS SIMs a lot of the latency problems we had was with ongoing credit checks during the access process, so I’m rather surprised that Voda didn’t just shut him down.

    Gut feeling: this one will go away.

  2. How to control your Roaming charges?

    When you’re traveling abroad with your 3G mobile handset you can use the pbc – eurotariff (mobile application) to control in real time the eurotariff cost for voice calls and sms.

    Right now it for voice and SMS

    For data you can send email and get a private version


  3. I feel nauseous for the guy just reading about his accidental $54,000 cell bill. That's terrible! In response (and so no one else suffers a similar fate), I wanted to write a follow-up post on the topic of cutting cell costs. Specifically, thousands of people are achieving substantial wireless savings through the website (by a company called Validas) that on average currently saves T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and US Cellular customers 22 percent, equating to $484 annually, off their cell bills. I personally save $230 per year through Validas and I have been so impressed with these real results that I recently took a job with the company.

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