By February 22, 2010

Mobile Broadband bill from Orange for nearly £8,000.00

A university student ran up a bill of almost £8,000 on his mobile internet broadband abroad in one month because rules introduced last year to prevent this have taken nine months to implement.

Although EU rules will be introduced in the UK on 1 March to protect users against “bill shock”, 22-year-old William Harrison (below) was initially told by Orange that it would have infringed the company’s customer privacy policy to monitor his usage.

Harrison, a third-year Nottingham university student, started a six-month internship in Paris last September and wanted temporary internet access in the flat he was renting there. He and his father, Roger, asked an Orange store in Hertfordshire about the best way to access the internet abroad and queried whether a dongle, a small piece of hardware that connects to a laptop or desktop computer allowing wireless internet access, would be suitable.

“The woman in the store said the dongle would work perfectly in France, especially for a short-term contract,” says William. “She said there was a 3GB (gigabyte) limit on data use but that this would be ‘perfectly ample’.”

In France, William used his internet account to access Skype, a software application that allows users to make voice calls over the internet, on a daily basis. “I was unaware of how expensive this was. On my computer at home it’s free,” says William. He says he did not use the internet to download anything that would have been data-heavy, such as videos.

On 17 October, his first bill arrived. It was for £6,101.56. “I immediately questioned it and asked for the dongle to be blocked,” he says. “But there was a further charge which covers the cost of the dongle use between the bill being sent and the dongle being blocked. I am now faced with a bill of £7,648.77.

“It is an absolutely awful situation, both in the short term because of the £8,000 debt and in the long term because the potential damage to my credit rating could be disastrous.”

Roger contacted Orange on behalf of William to query the bill, and was told by a shocked operator that there should be a £40 monthly limit on dongle usage. However, what he was not told, and which Orange’s own operator did not seem to be aware of, was that this does not apply to overseas use.

“I sent Orange a cheque for £158.66, which is what I had worked out to be reasonable from the bill. However I never received a response from Orange.”

He says: “I am concerned William was given unlimited credit. There was nothing to stop this going up to £100,000. I think it is wrong the way this [dongle] has been sold and that there was no ‘flagging up’ to highlight that a bill of this size was being built up. Even Orange said the size of this bill was exceptional. For my son, at his age, to be saddled with this amount of debt is terrible.”

Full story at The Guardian

Posted in: Phones

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Seasoned tech blogger. Host of the Tech Addicts podcast.
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