back to article Man uses mobe as modem, rings up £27k phone bill

We are indebted to The Mirror for the latest example of mobile data charging madness, this time in England. Ian Simpson, a factory worker from Darlington, downloaded TV programmes onto his laptop using his mobile phone as a modem - and racked up charges of £27,322 in just one month. He says he may go bankrupt unless Vodafone " …

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Pirate

Unlimited.

unlimited

• adjective not limited or restricted; infinite.

http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/unlimited?view=uk

Nothing more, nothing less, WAKE UP OPERATORS!

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Silver badge

Take it to the small claims courts

There can be no debate about a network's right to charge for use of services above the level agreed in a contract. Do the charges applied reflect the real cost of providing the service? It is perfectly reasonable to contest the fairness of such charges in a court. Is the network using the money collected to improve the network or is it merely profiteering? Does it make any attempt to inform the customer that they have reached a limit and will be incurring higher charges? Are they culpable of encouraging a customer to get into debt? The small claims court is the ideal place to clarify these matters once and for all given that the regulatory bodies are blatantly incompetent.

My contract in Germany offers 250 MB for €10 per month with a known price per GB beyond that up to a limit of €25 per month which is the same as their flatrate. VoIP is clearly excluded from the contract which is a reasonable restriction for a phone company to apply. Anyone expecting consistently high data rates is likely to be disappointed but real data flat rates are the only way for networks to stimulate use of their very expensive networks. It might be worth noting that the courts in Germany regularly rule in favour of customers: children under 18 cannot be held legally responsible for bills (re. excessive charges for ringtones, etc.); money on pre-paid accounts may never be appropriated by the networks.

Considering these confusing product names and descriptions and punitive tarriffs reminds me of something Michiel van Meijer once said: "Don't punish the customer". If the network were to charge say £1 for each additional GB beyond the limit then they would still be handsomely in profit, likely to continue to make money from the customer and wouldn't be getting bad press for profiteering.

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Boffin

Two words: "Consumer Direct"...

...they're the regional callcentre advice wing of the DTI and/or Trading Standards, or so, and a great first point of contact, RATHER than trying to write to Ofcom/ASA/Small Claims Court/City Hall straightaway. They're great on consumer protection law, they won't cost you anything, and even sometimes go to court on your behalf (or get Trading Standards to). 08454 04 05 06 - or check www.saynoto0870.com for geographical numbers.

As any Trading Standards Officer will tell you, the statutes which protect the consumer (and probably in this case), form implied contractual conditions (the most powerful contract terms) which it is almost impossible to 'contract out of' on an ordinary basis, and attempts at exclusion clauses to these conditions will ordinarily be invalid, even great shibboleths which are normally taken for granted by the population, e.g. 'one year guarantee [only]'.

Oh, four other words: T-Mobile mobile data tariff. £7.50 per month for a gig, and modem use permitted. It's rarely one's moved to so praise a mobile telco, but for this alone they do kind of rock.

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Thumb Up

@Adrian Waterworth

Best response yet.

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Flame

@Adrian Waterworth

"And that's coming from someone who worked in the IT game for 15 years or more and who has managed to run development teams, support outfits and even a couple of small companies without ever actually _needing_ to access the Internet/web/email/whatever on a mobile. Even when on holiday, abroad or travelling on business for any length of time."

I suspect you have pointy hair. If you cannot see the value of mobile data then you are seriously behind the times. If you have never _needed_ to check your email remotely or urgently then I guess that nothing you ever did was particularly important.

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Stop

Could go both ways

The article is not clear whether the plan was advertised as an "unlimited plan". The phone companies, and internet providers (Comcast!!!) really like twisting words to grill consumers. Of course in advertising it is legal to say "Virtually (adj.)" because it's not actually (adj.), but it's "really close". The hidden crap like the hidden line Comcast has or the only use port 80 traffic is only out there to get the consumer. The average consumer has no idea what port 80 is. If they're downloading a file from the internet, it could be through FTP; how would they know that the ports differ or that there's even a switch?

There's a big stink in the telecommunications industry and somebody's gotta clear out the rot.

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Black Helicopters

@unlimited - vodafone do!

Although their website may not say so now, Vodafone DID offer an unlimited contract on their 3g card. I know as i have the paperwork in my hand that clearly states my plan is 'unlimited' in it's name.

If this guy has the word 'unlimited' anywhere on his paperwork then he should take this as far as it could go legally as Ofcom do not care, but there is enough contradiction to make it an unfair contract to charge so much for a measured amount of data, when its described as unlimited. The telcos may be using 1984 style contradictions ('freedom is slavery' etc) but a judge may see more sense.

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Get real...

My girlfriend ended up with a 3k bill after 4 weeks, which by the end of 10 weeks was up at 7k. I can’t say she didn’t know what she was doing either; she’s a senior systems engineer, enterprise admin for a global corporation with 9 years experience, and prior to her current job helped set up an ISP (Wanadoo/FranceTelecom) . It took weeks of frantic calls, emails and use of insider friends in the provider before they admitted it was a horrid mistake on their side and she infact owed them next to nothing. At one point they were adamant she’d been connected and actively downloading for more minutes than was temporally possible! Yes, they were claiming in all seriousness that it was possible to have 28 hours in a day…

Fact: Most providers billing systems are a mess. Their customer service is even worse, and even when it’s obvious they’ve ballzed up dramatically – they’ll still try to bully the poor punter into submission.

I hate over-regulation as much as anyone, but this current mess is like the bad old days of 1000% per day loan sharks.

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Pirate

The end of GSM / UMTS

The traditional wireless operators have been unable to get grip on sensibly charging for data usage. Granted it is a thorny problem, since bandwith is in fact limited, so the traditional all you can eat buffet is not an option. But it would't take a savant to come up with a workable alternative to what we have today. For instance, if I recieve a video call while roaming in Europe I now pay ordinary roaming fees for receiving such a call, but exorbitant data rates if I try to videocall home. Another example that goes to show that the priceing structure is fundamentally broken.

The only alternative that the telcos have come up with is IMS http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IP_Multimedia_Subsystem which is an unashamed powergrab of the telcos. Layered on top on something similar to an unmetered data carrier, they have composed a gordic knot of protocols to maintain the same level of control, and ability to continue the absurd differentiatedl datarates. ( Different for SMS / MMS / video / data / voice etc. ) This technologu brings NOTHING of value to the customer, and is so complex that setting up a single voicecall requires over 120 control messages.

This is why my crystal ball shows the end of GSM / UMTS. Any alternatove technology WiMax or similar that comes along, with somewhat flat rate, and reasonable roaming arrangements will beat IMS hands down, as long as it provides SIP acces at a cost lower than GSM / UMTS voice calls.

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Unlimited

I have a Vodafone contract and I HAVE been offered Unlimited Internet (120Mb allowance!) They have since dropped the unlimited and now use the similarly confusing phrase 'no daily limit'.

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Linux

@AC

Sorry - wrong on both counts. System and software designer/developer with a number of years of experience under the belt. PhD in Fault-Tolerant and Real-Time systems, worked on kernel device drivers for the Telco division of Sun Microsystems, did the dot-com-bubble thing as System Architect for a B2B marketplace service provider, worked as a consultant software engineer/designer in the distributed systems (CORBA, J2EE) market and ended up doing various technical design and oversight things on large-scale contracts, such as the wonderful (NOT!) NHS care records system and various other major government and corporate IT outsourcing deals.

And, you know what? By the simple expedient of having properly trained (and intelligent) staff members, clearly defined reporting/escalation structures and a reasonable amount of advance planning, I have managed to avoid the situation of having to access systems, check email, etc. on my phone. Wow! How's about that?

On those occasions where something went sufficiently wrong that I needed to be contacted urgently, a simple phone call usually sufficed and I could ensure that someone would be able to deal with the problem. Or at least contain it long enough for me to get decent network access at home, at an office or via WiFi/VPN from my laptop in the hotel/station/airport/wherever.

Believe me, if you think that you, or the things that you do, are _soooo_ desperately important that you simply must have 24/7 access to your email (or whatever) via your phone, you will ultimately feel severely short-changed when your employer or client decides to save a few bucks and outsources your job to someone else who doesn't do the 24/7 thing on their own, but does employ a few guys in India (or wherever) to monitor stuff for them.

(Like all generalisations, I can think of possible exceptions to this. Although the only one that springs immediately to mind would be C&C support for the emergency services. And those should have properly manned data/control centres 24/7, so there should be no real need for some critical bod or other to be checking on email or systems via their mobile.)

In my experience, people who think that they simply _must_ have 24/7 access to their systems or email like that are either spending too little on their service providers (or on employing additional staff) or are over-estimating their own importance...

Of course, YMMV. That's just my experience from what I've seen in the various places I've worked.

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I pity the fool

Every time I read about the excesses of UK telco's I cringe with sympathy. Fortunately I live in Finland and I have a 384kbps unlimited data UMTS connection on my phone which costs me a grand total of 10 euros/month no matter how much I use it.

The funny thing is that the data connection only uses the free bandwidth of the base station that otherwise would be completely extraneous. If the base station gets congested during "rush hours" the data connections are the first to be throttled or cut altogether if it gets too bad. Then they dare to charge the customers like it was a premium service when in fact it is the exact opposite.

It's free money as far as the telco's are concerned, since they have already allocated the cost of the infrastructure to the regular call and SMS prices. In their projections they probably had an allowance for a certain amount of idling in the infrastructure which is also reflected in the call prices. Now that there is more traffic and less idling, they actually get more that they originally projected from the same investment. That should naturally be reflected in the prices like they do in Finland.

Since most of the telco's are also ISP's, the barely discernible increase in net traffic due to mobile internet is probably insignificant in their total net traffic, they really shouldn't be able to justify those prices in any shape or form. The public's ignorance is probably the only reason this kind of practice is allowed to go on.

It's quite amazing that 5 million people spread in a very sparsely populated country with long distances have prices MUCH lower than in a supposedly technologically advanced one.

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Flame

@ another point of sale problem

you're shocked at carphone warehouse staff? When I worked at the big pink letter telephone co, the only time CPW shocked me was when they got it right! The number of missold blackberries coming out of that place is ridiculous.

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Unhappy

what the add says

If it says unlimited then it unlimited and he should not be charge, even if the contract say unlimited for a set amount of band width. For example, it is wrong to say the Sun is an unlimited source of light and say then it willl go out in 50 million years, a contradiction. If any adds say unlimited , he should not pay. Get proof and a lawyer and deal with it.

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Linux

Always use pay as you go!

Currently in a European country getting around 100mb a day for £4 a month.Port 80 proxy fills out limited service.Had no problems with Orange UK unlimited deals on pay and go either

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Oh me oh my

The problem is nobody really cares - and yes, the people up here that approve of vodaphone's appalling behaviour; you're the biggest culprits in this problem.

A while back (2 weeks or so ago), I went into GameStop to buy my kid a Nintendo DS. Nothing unusual there. They even had a nice deal: DS + 1 game of your choice for €164. My kids noticed, came back to me and got all hot under the collar the cost is a bit much, but workable if they put in some of their own savings; so hey it sounds good to me.

Get to the counter, manager says "Oh, ah no; we don't have any of -that- stock left, we got a new shipment this morning so it's €160 for the console on it's own". You what?

At this point, the shop knows you can't refuse without making a huge scene (they don't really know me, so they were in for a shock). I noticed several parents for days after though shelling out the extra to save the scene - and there is the reason it was still up.

Did the sign say "while stocks last", or even similar? No.

Did they take the sign down? No.

Is the sign still up to this day, yet unhonored? Most likely, it was a few days ago.

We all approve of this type of scam when we buckle down and accept things like "unlimited" (oh but it really means 20mb); or "Up to 3MB Broadband" which turns out to be 10K on a good day.

If you REALLY want it to change, we need to start holding CEO's in the responsible company -directly- for this type of scam.

To the punter, I say sue the CEO directly for false advertising, attempting mass fraud on the public, mail fraud (assuming they posted the bill to you), and throw in a bit of high treason for using the ROYAL MAIL to deliver his fraudulent bill to you (lets hope they still hang and quarter the bastards). Attach his assets too, if you get a good enough lawyer (and for that kind of payoff, you should be able to).

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This is ugly

All plans, from all providers, from what I see in the comments above, suck. I live in the wild east (Romania) and I pay 20 euros a month for for 4GB, no restrictions of any kind within the first 4 GB, and 4 euros for each additional 500 MB. The connection is 3G in virtually every city with 50k or more people in it.

I consider what I have severely restricted (I mean, traffic limitations? so 1995) I thought things were better in western Europe, but it doesn't sound like it

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recording & proof

generally it doesn't matter what the sales droid told you, after all it will be your word v theirs, the solution is to record all calls. my understanding is that either party to a call can record it without giving notice - but a third party must give notice. I tend to find telling them you're recording it cuts the crap.

ok so thats over the phone sorted but what about the sales pitch in the shop? well record that as well. and keep the evidence. if there is a problem go into another shop of the same chain as a 'new customer' and record that as well (avoids 'a one off mistake' excuses) when trying to resolve whatever scam/issue you have let them know you have done this, and will continue to do this, and when the probem ends up in court it will be presented.

of course they won't go to court, just a debt agency and screw your credit record. if you have to sue them... for stress, 'admin' charges for your time anything but get them in court, sue them for the amount they say you owe them as an incorrect bill to cancel out what they say you owe.

generally companies won't want the fuss, they *certainly* won't want a court looking at the 'limited/unlimited' issue and setting a precedent. the trick is to be able to prove what was actually said, and not what some policy document implies was said.

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I pity the fool

Every time I read about the excesses of UK telco's I cringe with sympathy. Fortunately I live in Finland and I have a 384kbps unlimited data UMTS connection on my phone which costs me a grand total of 10 euros/month no matter how much I use it.

The funny thing is that the data connection only uses the free bandwidth of the base station that otherwise would be completely extraneous. If the base station gets congested during "rush hours" the data connections are the first to be throttled or cut altogether if it gets too bad. Then they dare to charge the customers like it was a premium service when in fact it is the exact opposite.

It's free money as far as the telco's are concerned, since they have already allocated the cost of the infrastructure to the regular call and SMS prices. In their projections they probably had an allowance for a certain amount of idling in the infrastructure which is also reflected in the call prices. Now that there is more traffic and less idling, they actually get more that they originally projected from the same investment. That should naturally be reflected in the prices like they do in Finland.

Since most of the telco's are also ISP's, the barely discernible increase in net traffic due to mobile internet is probably insignificant in their total net traffic, they really shouldn't be able to justify those prices in any shape or form. The public's ignorance is probably the only reason this kind of practice is allowed to go on.

It's quite amazing that 5 million people spread in a very sparsely populated country with long distances have prices MUCH lower than in a supposedly technologically advanced one.

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NOT unlimited

Everyone's is such a big hurry to grab their torch and pitchfork, that it seems they never bothered to read the article, which nowhere, I repeat, NOWHERE mentions anything about unlimited usage.

From the article: "Ian signed up for a Vodafone Anytime 800 contract and added a £7.50 inclusive internet deal to let him use his phone for surfing the net."

Nothing about being unlimited.

After looking around vodafone.co.uk for mobile internet, I came across this page:

http://online.vodafone.co.uk/dispatch/Portal/appmanager/vodafone/wrp?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=template10&pageID=MI_0004&WT.svl=link1

Which pretty clearly discusses the 120 MB limitation. It also says you revert to £1 per day if you go over the 120, but the £1 per day is also pretty clearly delineated as being for up to 15 MB per day. After that, it's not clear on the site what the charge is, but it's pretty clear it's not the same.

This is a classic case where idiot doesn't read what he's signing, gets bitten in the ass for his stupidity, then wants sympathy for it. Do the telcos charge way too much for what costs them so little to provide? Absolutely, but this guy had the terms laid out in front of him, signed them, then ran up his bill. It's his own fault.

It's not the telco's responsibility to make sure you read and understand the contract before you sign it -- that's YOUR job. It's not the telco's responsibility to actively monitor your usage and poke you when there might be an issue -- it's YOUR job to monitor your usage. It's not the telco's responsibility to hold your hand to make sure you don't cross the street in front of traffic -- it's YOUR job to open your eyes!

Make the bloke pay.

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Flame

How much per meg?!!!

I believe another problem with users misunderstanding what is allowed/included is the way many non-technical news publications refer to the whole Internet as "the web." Like when talking about illegal pron on filesharing networks and saying they will get this stuff "off the web." This probably leads to the average person thinking that a "web" tariff includes all the other protocols too.

I just worked out that if I use all my cap allowance on my home broadband I pay 0.06p a meg. Last time I looked, my mobile phone provider was charging £1.80 a meg (yes... that's 3000 times the price I'm paying at home). Therefore would argue that since they are both retail prices I would be paying my mobile provider £1.7994 of each £1.80 I spend for them to deliver the data to me. I expect to pay a small premium for this service (I would be happy with double and might even go as far as ten times what I pay per meg at home) but 3000 times is clearly (insert expletive here) outrageous.

Then there is the matter of the stingy limits on mobile packages. The only reason I limit data rates on networks I operate is if the networking technology or the links that feed it are unable to cope with more. The 3G networks have relatively few users now. If operators feel the need to limit bandwidth that severely in order to keep their networks running with few users then how the hell are they going to cope when we're all forced onto 3G? My conclusion from this is that 3G itself and/or the operators' distribution networks must probably suck. Yes, there is also the possibility that they are just thieving, arm-twisting *******s and want to charge us as much as possible for as little as possible.

All my mobile devices are data capable but I don't use it. Not because I don't want to but because I'm scared of the size of the bill I could run up without warning (or the bill spammers and virus-infected email could run up.) There's no mechanism for my phone to give me a running total in money for my usage or for me to be sent a text message every so many pounds of spend. I would consider myself insane to put myself in a situation where I could be subject to penalties for quite minor over-usage that are so high. I will start using mobile data when for less than £50 ($100) fixed payment a month I can turn my laptop on and do whatever I would do with it at home without having to worry about how much data I'm shifting.

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Gates Horns

Low Phone Usage

I can afford to say "what a silly boy" to this iriot.

At the beginning of December 2007 I was forced to stick my hand in my pocket to pay £20 for new PAYG for my Virgin Mobile phone. "So what's wrong with that?" I heard the audience ask.

Simple fact is that I bought a Siemens S25 from my local Virgin Mobile store in August 2000. The day after that Virgin reduced the price of that sucker by £60, so I offered to take the phone back and demand a refund. Virgin Mobile said very sorry and gave me £60 on my mobile phone PAYG tariff to make up the difference.

That £60 ran out 3 weeks ago. So I've used £60 of PAYG over 7.5 years, which is about 60p per month if my maths is about right. So my mobile phone usage is something like 2p per day on average. Not bad methinks.

And in case anyone is interested the answer is no - I haven't been downloading movies using my PAYG contract.

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Unhappy

This is rape!

Why do we worry about giving the cocaine monopoly to criminals if we give he cell phone monopoly to the small select group of white collar criminals?

Do they meet at night and discuss price fixing? They don't have to. If the group is small enough, all rednecks and share the same mother, then their thinking is amazingly synchronous. Do you *really* think that the costs they have is commensurate with their charges for mobile data? If you did for a second, then why do Scandinavian providers provide *unlimited* access at a flat rate? They must be real dumb!!!! (or maybe didn't sleep with their mothers?).

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Flame

Re: Vodafone suck!!!

"I had a similar experience with Vodafone last month. Not quite as bad as what this gentleman did, but a £346.40 private bill really hurts! Especially just before Christmas!

They (Vodafone) claim I used 108mb in the space of 30 minutes downloading mail from my mail server! I've produced logs proving I did not use that amount of data yet they are not prepared to do anything about it. At the time my phone only had 64mb worth of storage so downloading 108mb is physically impossible! Currently i've got no clue what more I can do! I've cancelled my direct debit, written letters, etc but still sit £280 out of hand because of this.

Any advice?"

Yes, they are probably right :o) ... Don't forget that the size of information you received isn't going to be the same as the amount of data transferred (you have to take into account the data being encapsulated, and of course most forms of mail transfer aren't very efficient).

Mail attachments are much bigger than the original file as they're Base64 encoded. Your phone probably compresses this or stores it in a different format once the mail arrives (crazy to keep it in Base64).

Your mobile probably has some hela-stupid ways of getting your mail.

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Anonymous Coward

And when he saw his bill..

Did Mr Simpson, who ate all he could, say...... D'oh! ??

Coat ? yes please

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Alert

"mobe"

I thought we weren't supposed to be using the term "mobe", according to the 10 Rules of El Reg Club.

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Anonymous Coward

Mr Simpson is not so stupid

All I can say is that the high bill is not the result of Mr Simpson's stupidity. If he can even get his mobile phone to act as a modem, he must have some technical intelligence. The reason why this is not a bigger story is that most people give up trying after a few failed attempts. And the business users (I work for UK civil service) who use vodafone plug in modems don't even see the bill, so vodafone are laughing. And yes, T-mobile are the fairest of a very bad bunch, but then reception and coverage is the worst. What a mess it all is. Happy new Year!

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Alert

unlimited internet access!!!

the 120 meg allowance for £7.50 it doesnt say unlimited as far as i can see and thats for the internet using the handset NOT for using it as a modem i have no sympathy for this guy with the massive bill from the website

Whether you’re a Pay as you talk or a Pay monthly customer you can start exploring the Mobile Internet straight away on our daily rate. This normally costs no more than £1 per day.

If you browse just a few pages a day and use less than 0.5MB in the process, you only pay for those pages.

Reading 5 pages of news on the BBC costs about 25p.

Finding a restaurant on Google search costs about 20p.

From 0.5MB all the way to 15MB, which is more than enough for most users, you pay £1 per day. This lets you:

view 600 web pages in a day or

download 15 minutes of video.

If you’d like the freedom to browse without a daily limit, try our £7.50 Web browsing pack. It gives you a huge 120MB monthly allowance, which should let you view 1000’s of web pages, all your emails and loads of videos.

Subscribe and get the first month free

Get a massive 120MB per month

Revert to the £1 daily rate if you go over your monthly limit

and this also from there website

You can connect your laptop or PDA to the internet on our day rate or web browser pack. You’ll use more of your MB allowance on a laptop than a phone – if you’re a laptop user take a look at our 3G Broadband Mobile Connect card. If you’re on our day rate and go over your MB allowance, you’ll be charged £2 for every extra MB you use. Subscribers to our data pack will revert to the £1 day rate until the end of that month.

Neither our day rate nor monthly pack can be used for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services like Skype or Peer-to-Peer services (like instant messenger services, text messaging clients or file sharing). These services are charged separately at £2 per MB, with a 5p minimum charge for each data session.

all the information is there online if the guy cant be bothered to go read it up or call first he has no sympathy from me just pay your bill and learn from your mistakes

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Silver badge

@AC

If you set your operations up so you have to be contactable at all times you're running a pretty unprofessional setup (unless of course you're a sole trader, in which case you have to live with it). Illness? Accidents? No11 bus? There are loads of reasons why the organisation might have to suddenly do without you, so making sure it can run without you in scheduled absences is an obvious way of testing the systems work. Lets face it, being indispensible may be good for the ego, but its a damned unprofessional way of running a large organisation.

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The large print giveth and the small print taketh away

In an insufficiently regulated environment the marketing hyenas in the competing companies tend to have an arms race with each other, where they get more and more extreme in their re-interpretations of ethics and morality as they try to compete and win.

I used to work for a computer manufacturer. We once introduced a new computer with a lifetime warranty. I was an engineer and I was appalled, I knew the computers wouldn't last a lifetime and that the financial implications for the company were horrendous. I had my error explained to me, the very small print defined "lifetime" as the useful lifetime of a computer, not a human being. Weasels.

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Vodafone are theives

Vodafone are the most expensive mobile phone network out there, when I worked in their account managment I saw how much they ripped people off, there were some very suspicious charges on customers bills that were immediatly refunded when customer rang up to complain, but how many were charged and how many complained?

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false advertising

There is a nice Vodafone advert on a billboard in Manchester stating that you can access "any website you want for £7.50 a month". Not being funny, but I bet there's probably a website or two with more than 120mb of data on...

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rob
Stop

It is common f**king sense

It is fairly obvious... Using a mobile to make phone calls (what they are designed for) is stil expensive 20 years or so after their initial release, using a mobile as a modem to download tv shows and porn (I expect) is always going to cost a fortune if you exceed what you have signed for!

The guy should go back, read his contract, then speak to Vodaphone about how they can come up with a mutually agreeable settlement.

He signed, he is liable, QED.

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Pirate

@Adrian Waterworth

Regardless of whether you can understand why anyone would want data via or on their mobile handset the fact is that some people do. It does not make them a lesser person for that reason. The future may [or may not] be mobile digital, but for some it either is or will be. Let it rest at that.

The focus of this article and many of the comments is correctly on Vodafone's ability and willingness to drive one of its own customers into bankruptcy if needs be. That in itself is unacceptable by any measure.

I do feel that if Vodafone have systems and services with the capability of allowing such a huge financial charge to be made, then these same systems should be quite capable of warning Vodafone's customers before the event. They should be capable of, if not capping, then at the very least making the customer aware that they are nearing the point of financial penalty, for that is what it is.

If Vodafone, and the other mobile operators too, do not respond to reason then they should be regulated into providing the consumer protections that are clearly, in this case, completely absent.

If I had my way Vodafone would be ordered to disable all mobile data access completely until it has implemented and demonstrated the ability to prevent any customer from exceeding their data allowance without being in receipt of prior warning. If the customer insists on using the data service after being warned then the ball can be well and truly in their lap and they can pay the consequences.

Shame on Vodafone - they should write this invoice off immediately.

Pirate symbol chosen because that is how Vodfone are behaving - pirates of the airwaves indeed!

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Stop

Rip-off data prices

Why is every provider charging such ridiculous prices for data? It seems to me a fair price for 1MB of data should be similar to a 1MB of voice calls. Looks to me that mobiles compress voice calls to about 500KB / min, but you need to send to 2 mobiles, whereas data only goes to one.

So without price gouging we should be able to get 25p / MB pay as you go - less on a contract. Instead my contract charges £3 / MB. Damn that's got to be profitable. I do out-of-hours support and occasionally use my mobile (work-provided) to connect up. This month I've moved house and had to use the mobile the whole month (BT / Sky finally got my new ADSL running today). My laptop has gradually managed to download nearly 100MB of windows updates that I haven't been able to cancel, and along with actual support usage I've used about 160MB of data - nearly £500 when the reasonable price should have been more like £40.

Even with a sensible price this guy would probably have run up £2500. But 120MB fair-usage on an unlimited policy is ridiculous - the Windows .NET update this month was 74MB alone. Add in the other Windows updates, Firefox updates, Java updates etc. and you could hit the fair usage limit without actually using your connection!

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Happy

I would be asking

Justify the amount - sure, I'd pay the amount, but I would demand that they justify the pricing - disclose to me the costs.

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Not only the phone bill...

I wonder were all those tv programmes he downloaded from a legitimate source?

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Anonymous Coward

Bad marketing for Voda

Voda have surely shot themselves in the foot, bigtime: who in their right mind would sign up for Voda data after hearing about this story? In the UK, we shop *on price*. The loss of potential new custom must heavily outweigh any gains made through acculturating customers to high charges.

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Linux

All this mobile data

I *need* mobile data, and not for some ego trip. I move around a lot, and there is no way I can be signing up to a new DSL package or similar every 12 months - especially given the general trend in 18, 24 etc. month contracts that seems to be developing to get those 'bargain' packages.

I've used GSM and GPRS data extensively, at one point having to contest £350/mth bills because they starting billing me for HSCSD calls I hadn't made. Up until last month I was making do with tunnelling my Internet connection through port 80 (alright, so you need a sympathetic machine somewhere to achieve this, but it isn't impossible if you have a friend with a regular broadband link) in order to get dialup-like speeds, for the £5/mth 'Unlimited GPRS WAP browsing' offer. Why this scam? the legitimate price plans were extortionate.

Re: sales reps who have no idea, I had the guy on the phone explaining the contracts tell me they were so expensive because of the strain their use puts on the network. I thought packet data was invented to reduce the channel-sapping GSM data calls? He did also tell me that his telco's offers were plainly bad value for money though, so he was honest if not completely informed.

Surely as the technology is improving with UMTS and HSDPA there will be more capacity for the average data user, and they should be encouraging us to use all this expensive kit they've had to purchase and install.

I've just moved up to HSDPA with a CardBus data card, and in the city centre where I live now I regularly get 1.8Mbit/s downlink, great for fetching big e-mails, source code archives and the like. I don't download films and TV shows, I occasionally drag an MP3 or two off a torrent. I get 3GB a month transfers, and told to behave if I go over it. There is no danger of that right now (it is 100MB a day for the 30 day month, which is plenty for normal Internet use.) and I pay £25 a month for the privilege.

This is at the top end of the 3G 'unlimited' packages, but 3 couldn't even set up an account properly for me (and it took a week of phone calls and trips to the shop to ascertain their mistakes) T-Mobile said I failed their credit check (having too many addresses in the last few years perhaps?!) and eventually it was slightly more expensive but dependable Orange who came up trumps having just come up with this actually half-way competitive price plan in the last month or so.

Now the telcos are waking up and starting with these 'unlimited' plans, although their use of these fair usage policies to qualify that word seems to be opening up a can of worms like the guy in the article. I didn't even consider Vodafone when looking for the HSDPA upgrade - perhaps I've dodged a bullet.

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Pirate

@Danny Thompson

You're right, I still don't see the point of mobile data - certainly not in its current form. But I never said (or intended to imply) that I felt anyone was "a lesser person" for wanting it. If I was being particularly misanthropic about it, I might think (or suggest) that anyone paying for mobile data packages at the moment either hasn't really thought about whether they really need it, whether it effectively meets a need that can't be met better (and more cheaply) in other ways or whether it is actually worth what you end up paying for it, but that's as far as I'd go.

It was someone else who suggested that, because I didn't "see the value" of mobile data then I was behind the times, had pointy hair and had never done anything that was important enough to warrant needing mobile data. So I responded to that particular comment to show that it was pretty much wrong on all counts. As far as I can see, the main "value of mobile data" at the moment is that it allows the mobile operators to gouge and rip-off their customers.

The things I then said about over-estimating self-importance, etc. were based on the many people whom I have met (and worked with) who have fallen into the "I need my mobile data/Blackberry/whatever 'cos I must be contactable 24/7 'cos there's only me can do it/I'm so important" trap. The sooner that people realise just how much of a fallacy that kind of thinking usually is, the happier (and more balanced) a life they will lead. (Ugh! Sorry. Slightly horrible sentence construction there, but I hope you see what I mean.)

As for mobile operators, I wholeheartedly agree with you. My original comment (merits of mobile data aside) was also intended to highlight the fact that O2 had once tried to rip me off for GSM (WAP) data calls that I had never even made and that it then took a fair bit of shouting before I got them to admit that their network and billing systems had screwed up. Given that the mobile operators can (and do) pull stunts like that, is it any wonder that they will overcharge for any data service that they supply? They really do need a good kicking over this kind of thing and, even if our wonderful toothless regulator doesn't manage to do it, we can hope that the mobile-phone-buying public will eventually become savvy enough to do it themselves by voting with their feet (and wallets).

And that's pretty much it from me really. I'm off to celebrate the imminent (well, in 30 hours or so) arrival of 2008. Happy New Year everybody!

(Chose the pirate icon 'cos I wholeheartedly share that view on mobile phone operators.)

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Coat

They're all sharks.

A couple of years ago I got an unholy bill from Orange - I checked and found that none of my inclusive minutes had been taken in consideration. When I called their CS dept they said that there had been a computer fault and this has happened to "thousands" of users, but they didn't intend to tell anyone who didn't notice (ie, they intended to keep the money, if possible). I'd caught them red-handed, so they offered to "credit" against a future bill, but I was about to leave the provider and i'd never use their "credit" up before I closed the account. Their wonderfull suggestion was that I sign up for another year, they price-match with my new provider. They didn't seem to "get" that I didn't want a stinkin' contract with them any more BECAUSE of this kind of continual cock-up & I wanted a handset they didn't offer. Eventually they admitted that they didn't actually have any mechanism for returning an excess charge - and somehow expected me to just accept this self-imposed impossibility as my hard luck. Eventually (after I threated to sue them) they did manage a refund cheque (so "this isn't possible" was another lie!) with much bad grace. And I haven't been back to them since.

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Happy

Data is unlimited free for an nominal fee in .NL

Christ, what are the mobile phone companies doing in the UK. I'm use to 'rip of britan' (hence now an expat) but 27K - why didnt they inform this guy, or is it just that easy to make money from someone stupid enough to download films via mobile.

The irony of it is that in the Netherlands I pay a 30 euro fee and get CDMA/GSM unlimited data so its no problem to use my mobile as modem (just dont go over the border into Germany or Belgium as this can be done on the N95 maps and then watch bills roll in !!)

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three's definition of unlimited!!!

Here is the terms and conditions from three, a bit long but read it. Now they are offering UNLIMITED Internet Max, yet the terms say's it's limited! Surely this is illigal regardsless of any fairusage terms. They should not use the word UNLIMITED!

Add Internet Max

Add Internet Unlimited - Gives you unlimited internet surfing powered by Yahoo! Search, so you can access mobile web sites and search the open internet directly from your 3 mobile. Subject to Fair Use Policy. Service limitations and terms apply.

Fair Use Policy - X-Series

To make the most of the X-Series from 3, we encourage you to use the services as much as you like. To help us meet our commitment to you and other customers, we also ask that you use the services fairly. Our take on fair use limits is set out below.

Please remember that the X-Series services are for your personal use only and do not include using your mobile as a modem with your PC or laptop.

A "month" is calculated from the start of each of your monthly billing periods. The following fair use limits are all separate and there is no double counting between them.

Unlimited Data

Fair Use Limit: 1 GB each month

But this means the UNLIMITED data is limited!

X-Series - 1 GB should be more than enough to allow you to surf websites, use ISP email and download podcasts

X-Series Silver & Gold - 1 GB should be more than enough to allow you to surf websites, use Mobile Mail and download podcasts

We will let you know by text message once you have reached the fair use limit and ask you to cease using the included data services for the remainder of the month. If you continue to use the services we may suspend your data usage until the next month. This will not impact your access to other X-Series services.

Now what does UNLIMITED mean!!

Source is http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/unlimited

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1) - Cite This Source - Share This

un•lim•it•ed ʌnˈlɪm ɪ tɪd - Show Spelled Pronunciation[uhn-lim-i-tid] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation

–adjective

1. not limited; unrestricted; unconfined: unlimited trade.

2. boundless; infinite; vast: the unlimited skies.

3. without any qualification or exception; unconditional.

________________________________________

[Origin: 1400–50; late ME; see UN-1, LIMITED ]

Bob

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