Aussie shocked by $571,000 mobile bill

An Aussie traveller has returned from holiday to a $571,000 mobile phone bill.

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? 





    COMMENTS

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    Simo
    18th Sep 2014
    10:32am
    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
    Troubadour
    18th Sep 2014
    10:32am
    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
    LENYJAC
    18th Sep 2014
    1:10pm
    UM?.. HOW CAN THE COMPANY CANTACT YOU IF YOU HAVE NO PHONE?????
    Pass the Ductape
    19th Sep 2014
    6:50am
    Good question LENYJAC!
    johnny
    18th Sep 2014
    10:40am
    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.
    Helen-gran
    18th Sep 2014
    11:01am
    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!
    Helen-gran
    18th Sep 2014
    11:02am
    Travel insurance may have covered some of the cost.
    Lescol
    18th Sep 2014
    11:33am
    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?
    Foxy
    18th Sep 2014
    12:43pm
    Wasn't "Hellstra" was it? :-)
    ozirules
    18th Sep 2014
    12:46pm
    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.
    KSS
    18th Sep 2014
    12:50pm
    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?
    Polly Esther
    18th Sep 2014
    1:13pm
    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?
    Wanda
    18th Sep 2014
    1:15pm
    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.
    KSS
    18th Sep 2014
    1:34pm
    Heard of the internet Wanda?

    Internet cafes are all over the world. I bet David used one to tell his family/friends about his experience.
    Julkay
    18th Sep 2014
    1:38pm
    A lesson here. Keep your phone locked.
    Advocate
    18th Sep 2014
    3:18pm
    A very good lesson indeed Julkay. I bought a new phone last year and never got around to doing that. You just reminded me to set mine to lock. It took about 15 seconds to do.
    Advocate
    18th Sep 2014
    3:19pm
    And most phones (such as mine) will still allow emergency calls when locked.
    particolor
    18th Sep 2014
    4:03pm
    Move the Decimal Point one place to the Right and Pay them !!
    particolor
    18th Sep 2014
    4:13pm
    After reading all of it the Bill was Quashed any how !! So what's the Hoo Haa ?.. Apparently it wasn't Telstra ??
    niemakawa
    18th Sep 2014
    4:49pm
    Only ever buy prepaid, especially when going overseas. Plans leave anyone open to abuse by thieves and the Telcos alike. Yes prepaid can be a little more expensive, but the additional costs far outweigh the potential losses of plans .
    CindyLou
    18th Sep 2014
    6:49pm
    Agree with you, I have a prepaid, never ever have to worry about my bill, if the phone is lost or stolen it would be inconvenience but my loss would be restricted to a very tint set amount as the mobile is a cheapie. Obviously lots of folk prefer a phone with more functions but for me, the mobile phone I have is for my convenience, simple and uncomplicated.
    Anonymous
    19th Sep 2014
    5:03pm
    I also have prepaid and I have a lock on phone and only use to make "actual" phone calls and text.
    Robertj
    18th Sep 2014
    6:29pm
    Why blame the supplier and duty of care? An intelligent user would have activated the security functions of the phone, even just a password would be adequate. If he had a smart phone, many models now come with security features so after the theft visit an Internet cafe or back at the hotel get online and you can wipe out the phone's data and lock it. There is also free software available which does the above and can also tell you where it was last used. One software even takes a photo of the user after 4 unsuccessful attempts to access the phone if you have a password.
    doggone
    18th Sep 2014
    6:46pm
    the owner of the phone was a dill.
    he did the right thing by notifying the police but from there on its was all dillsville.
    no report to his telco who he could have contacted by phone or by email from a netcafe.
    further taking your phone with its australian sim is stupid.
    cheaper to buy a local sim of a say a hundred dollars of calls.
    some people should NEVER leave australia.
    CindyLou
    18th Sep 2014
    6:50pm
    Totally agree
    Anonymous
    19th Sep 2014
    7:29am
    agree! I never take a phone with me.
    Kato
    18th Sep 2014
    9:30pm
    A lot of phones have phone tracker and remote lock and data wipe if lost or stolen.If not a anti virus such as Avast or AVG have that capability. I find it hard to believe that most young people would not be that tech savy.Laziness does not excuse you from your responsibilities.
    Pass the Ductape
    19th Sep 2014
    6:56am
    Was the phone user on holiday I wonder? If this was the case; last thing I'd do is take my damn phone with me...you're on holidays heavens sake!
    Pass the Ductape
    19th Sep 2014
    6:57am
    Not phone user - I should have written - 'phone owner'.

    19th Sep 2014
    7:28am
    What an idiot that man was not informing his telco. Would have been one of the first things I would have done.
    btony
    19th Sep 2014
    11:45am
    Smart phone....dumb owner
    Not Senile Yet!
    19th Sep 2014
    2:20pm
    No. David should not have been held accountable...the phone was stolen and he reported it to Police!
    However, the Phone Company concerned was entitled to be advised by David of the Theft and given the opportunity to shut down the sim card!
    Perhaps the same Company would be well advised to send a text to all their customers advising them what to do if their phone is stolen whilst overseas...giving a contact number to call so they can shut down the sim.
    ME! I would have advised my phone company straight away!
    Having a smart phone does not mean that the owner is not Dumb!
    Typical of today.....Daddy...Mummy....help me !!!!
    Total nitwit!!! You never take a phone overseas....You get a prepaid one over there....so much cheaper as well!!!
    Robertj
    20th Sep 2014
    4:54pm
    Not Senile...but phone companies do give this information and what to do if the phone is lost or stolen. The problem is of course people cannot be bothered to read it. It is a lot easier to blame some one else.
    There is one problem with buying a cheap phone overseas for local calls in that in some countries you must produce identification which show, along with other details, a local address and local bank account. Other countries like Malaysia will accept a passport from visitors as being adequate.
    etnorb
    19th Sep 2014
    4:45pm
    Surely the Telco c=Company would have to contact the 'phone owner, before this horrendous phone bill had gotten so high? I know that the person concerned should have been on the ball a bit better, but some of the responsibility for "allowing" this bill o get so high? Luckily the owner does not have to pay this huge bill, but things could have been much worse if he was forced to by his Telco Company.
    Anonymous
    19th Sep 2014
    5:05pm
    The youth of today may be tech savvy but lack commonsense!
    Adrianus
    20th Sep 2014
    8:33am
    I wonder what costs are involved in actually locating the phone. Nabbing the thief and preventing the bill shock?
    jamesmn
    20th Sep 2014
    9:10am
    no he should not have been responsible I've had high phone bills in the past while in Australia I was on a contract and my service was suspended and they contacted me to verify the usage its only a Telco trying to rip off another customer go prepaid much safer
    Reeper
    20th Sep 2014
    2:58pm
    I am with a few others in that the guy should have contacted his Telco as well as reporting a theft. I know a lot of people who travel overseas, and they safeguard themselves with pre-paid sims
    Theo1943
    21st Sep 2014
    10:10am
    I agree with most that the phone owner wasn't very smart. but the Telco was a lot dumber than that.Does the Telco really think they can get $571,000 from a user? Why don't they protect themselves.


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