Aussie shocked by $571,000 mobile 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? 

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