When I signed up to O2, one of the extra no-charge services I agreed to (why they got my email address) was that they’d let me know by email if I was exceeding my usual monthly bill.
I got an email like that from them on 29 November (my bill was due on 2nd December). I had exceeded my usual phone costs by over £70.
My phone plan gives me two hundred minutes a month free. Normally, I stay inside that ration quite easily. This month I’d finished my free minutes about half-way through a phone call on 22nd November, and thereafter, every phone call had been charged at a rate of £4 per fifteen minutes. For one particularly long phone call I’d made on Sunday 23rd November, it would actually have been cheaper to pay for a taxi over to see Kreetch in person.
I’d agreed to sign up for an email to warn me that I was exceeding my monthly bill because I didn’t want to get accidentally smacked with a hundred-pound-plus phone bill. It would have been better/cheaper for me (and less profitable for O2) if they’d warned me I was exceeding my usual phone bill after I’d made that long call on Sunday – and better yet if I’d got the warning email as soon as I went over my free minutes. (The long call would, by itself, have doubled my usual bill: but apparently O2 didn’t trigger the promised email until I’d quadrupled my usual bill.)
My problems, however, are nothing to the man who got hit with an unexpected £6,875 phone bill from Orange – for downloading a TV programme that was 43 minutes long.
He has been billed for downloading more than 9,000 megabytes of data, despite having a monthly download allowance on his account of only 750 megabytes.
He denies having using that much data, but that even if he had the charges were far too much.
The company advertises data download for as little as £3.25 per 1,000 megabytes. Mr Wilson was charged more than £700 per 1,000 megabytes.
The email wasn’t quite useless: I made no more outgoing calls from my O2 phone once I’d got the message.
The temptation when a bill is unexpectedly high – especially a phone bill – is to think “oh, how could I have done things differently”? I knew I was talking a bit more on the phone than usual. I could have logged into MyO2 and checked the bill any time. I didn’t, because I had expected to get an email from O2 – and not six days late and after they’d got seventy pounds extra out of me.
I’ve also been getting spam phone calls from a fraudster who wants my bank details, and it’s annoying me that O2 won’t let me block individual numbers.
That’s not nearly as bad as getting a phone bill in four digits:
“The only thing I did differently to any other month was I downloaded a TV programme which was 43 minutes long.
“Now, if that is going to cost £6,000, it would be cheaper for me to fly out and watch the programme being filmed.”
He said he could not afford to pay the bill and Orange has threatened to cut him off.
“My phone is essential to my business so that is going to have a knock-on effect. Paying a bill that much, it could potentially put my business under,” he said.
You know what would work? If when you went over your free allowance, or some other benchmark set by you, the phone company was required to send you a text to let you know: and, if your spend went over its usual rate, to follow this up with an automated warning phone call as soon as your next bill was double what it usually is – or some other benchmark that you set.
But that would save us money and cut into phone company profits, and we can’t have that, can we?