Aussie shocked by $571,000 mobile bill

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Bill shock isn’t a new phenomenon, but this year one Australian took it to the next level, returning home from an overseas European trip to a $571,000 mobile phone bill.

The traveller, named David, had his smartphone stolen while travelling around Europe and unlike what happens in most cases, the thief decided to use the phone instead of ditching the sim card and called international numbers and surfed the internet.

The victim did report the theft of the phone to local police, but upon return to Australia, the telecommunication carrier insisted the full amount be paid. The father of the victim took the matter up with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) and the issue was resolved without the son having to pay any charges.

The annual report released yesterday by the TIO showed a six-year low in complaints about phone and internet services, but complaints regarding excess download charges are on the rise.

Read more from The Age.

Where are the safeguards?

Apart from having your passport and money stolen on an overseas trip, losing your smartphone can be a nightmare. Not only did David, the bill shock victim, have to deal with losing his smartphone while overseas, he also had to battle his telecommunication company upon return to prove he wasn’t responsible for the $571,000 in charges.

David is one of the lucky ones. Having filed a local police report for the smartphone overseas, he had taken the right steps over there. Unfortunately, he forgot to alert his telecommunications company to the theft and this allowed the thief to continue to use the phone.

What I want to know is where are all the safeguards which should have put a stop on David’s account after his spending went over a certain amount, say $2000? It is true that some telecommunication companies do offer the ability for users’ to set maximum spend amounts per month, but the telecommunication company’s system should have identified the highly irregular phone usage patterns and large costs being charged to David’s account, and blocked his phone before the issue got completely out of hand.

What do you think? Should David have been held responsible for not reporting the theft to his telecommunication company and allowing the charges to be racked up or should the company have identified the irregular spending and blocked his account? 

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Written by Drew

Starting out as a week of work experience in 2005 while studying his Bachelor of Business at Swinburne University, Drew has never left his post and has been with the company ever since, working on the websites digital needs. Drew has a passion for all things technology which is only rivalled for his love of all things sport (watching, not playing).


Total Comments: 39
  1. 0

    Most certainly there should be a duty of care by the TLECO and there should be a Maximum useage on every Mobile and Smart Phone, and only exceeded upon correct authorisation by the Mobile / Smart Phone Owner

  2. 0

    Common sense would tell you to immediately contact your telco to cancel or block – so that
    it cannot be used. However the Company should have in place a warning system to let you know if you have gone over a certain limit – I know you can ask them to do this, but for exorbitant amounts like this one it should be done without question at say $1000

  3. 0

    Companies will not set safeguards unless they are compelled to do so. It is business for them and as long as the money is pouring in, why would they care. This is the result of allowing businesses to self-regulate. Same story with the banks ripping off everybody. They need to be regulated by the government and policed. There is a lack of regulations.

  4. 0

    So what would the company do – send an SMS to alert the person??? He didn’t bother to alert his telco company, did he expect the foreign police to do that? We are becoming such a nanny-state!

  5. 0

    All I would like to know is which Operator in order not to use them! Since maybe the early ’00s globally Operators have installed antifraud measures which include limits on bills as well as the rate of increase on bills. Perhaps this is just a made up story?

  6. 0

    Wasn’t “Hellstra” was it? 🙂

  7. 0

    yes, the Telco should have identified a problem and yes the victim should have alerted the Telco, but as a person who has travelled the world (and still is) without a smartphone, perhaps the best thing to do is leave the thing at home. Travel can be fun, educational and adventurous without carrying the latest piece of technology.

  8. 0

    This story and some of the comments simply illustrate how far lack of personal responsibility has gone. Here we have a man who thinks he is old enough to have a mobile phone and travel overseas. He is the victim of a theft and quite rightly reports the theft to the local police. Then he thinks his responsibility ends and the local police will take over. How does he think the local police will be able to work out which carrier he uses? Given he has a legal contract with the Telco why would he think it unnecessary to tell them about the theft. Then when he finally gets home his FATHER takes up the fight and they blame the Telco for not warning David!!

    Exactly how should the Telco have warned David? Send him a text that the thief could ignore? Or given that David probably had all his details on the phone, the thief could have authorised continued use. Then what?

    If you lose your credit card and do not tell the card company you are liable for the loss. What is the difference here? For years people have been complaining about bill shock especially when using an Australian plan overseas. It is very hard to believe that this David really expected the thief to play fair and throw away his sim card. David had a duty to tell the Telco about the theft as soon as it happened. After all he did make a police report.

    One more thing, a few days ago there was an article about Telcos and the legislation to make them retain information about telephone and internet usage. I seem to remember people ranting about privacy. Now in David’s case people expect the same Telcos to keep a close eye on individual usage and block it if it seems unreasonable! Contradictory or what?

  9. 0

    Typical of the “I’m alright Jack, stuff you, why should I put myself out and do something responsible” ; attitude to life, perpetrated by many people these days. Wonder who changed his nappies while he was overseas?

  10. 0

    Interesting thought on how a traveller could easily contact his service provider without his phone especially in a foreign country where there may be language difficulties. Likewise the service provider can’t contact customer re excessive charges.
    A limit sounds like a safer option.

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