NeoBytes :) UK tourist gets $20,000 phone bill after downloading two TV episodes abroad

NeoBytes :) is an occasional feature that takes a step back from the big headlines, to take a look at what else is happening in the vast, scary expanse of the tech world - often with a cynical eye, always with a dose of humour.

When preparing to travel abroad, most of us have, at some point, contemplated the unadulterated horror of 'bill shock' - the frightening prospect of returning home to find a ma-HOO-sive phone bill waiting to destroy our bank accounts. But for most individuals who consider this possibility, the solution is simple: take every possible precaution - buy roaming bundles, contact your carrier to impose limits, carefully monitor usage, and the like - and then hope for the best. 

But Patricia Al, from southwest London, neglected to follow these steps quite so meticulously before embarking on a trip to Turkey, choosing instead to opt out of the 50MB data roaming limit and the £120 GBP ($195 USD) overseas spending cap provided by her carrier, O2. 

After she returned home to London, she received a bill from O2 for £12,520.87 (roughly $20,300) and, unsurprisingly, most of that came from international data roaming. 

She told ITV News that she was using her phone to download two half-hour episodes of the BBC One comedy My Family via the hotel's Wi-Fi network and onto her computer. For those who haven't seen the show, it's funny, but it's not that funny. Not twenty thousand bucks funny.

She says that the hotel's Wi-Fi cut out while she was downloading on two occasions, two days apart, adding that her phone - which was connected to the computer while charging - then automatically took over the download over the local cellular network instead, without any input from her.

Each episode - which she purchased from iTunes - ended up costing over £5,000 ($8,100) on her bill, and on top of this, she incurred further roaming charges of more than £2,500 ($4,050). O2 says that they sent her a text on August 24 - after she had already amassed £5,701.86 ($9,250) in charges - to let her know that her bill had reached stratospheric heights, but her bill continued to grow to more than double that amount after that date.

As a goodwill gesture, of sorts, O2 credited £6,644.97 ($10,750) to her account - but she remained liable for the remainder. "It's really quite embarrassing," she said. "I had to ask my father to bail me out." 

Al said that she shared her story because she wanted to warn others of the possibility of bill shock - so let that be a lesson to you. The next time you go abroad, make sure that you take all of the necessary precautions*... or better yet, just get a local SIM card when you arrive. 

After all, most of us aren't lucky enough to have parents ready to bail us out to the tune of thousands of dollars if we get home to find a rather unpleasant surprise from our mobile service provider waiting in the mailbox. 

Source: ITV News | images via ITV News / SWNS 
* Well, yes, those too.

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