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Orange hit user with £8,000 mobile broadband bill
Monday 22 February 2010 11:06:38 by John Hunt

Orange have hit a university student with a nearly £8,000 mobile broadband bill for using a mobile broadband dongle abroad. The student, used the dongle for temporary Internet access whilst on an internship in France last September and received a bill for £6,101.56 after the first month of usage. He immediately queried the bill and got the dongle blocked, but further usage between the date of the bill and the dongle being block increased it to £7,648.77.

Users could be forgiven for believing that such a high bill was a mistake, but in this case, there was no mistake. Orange charge £2.94 per megabyte for using the dongle abroad, much to the surprise of William Harrison who regularly used it for Skype phone calls and avoided data heavy applications, under the belief of having 3GB usage included.

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

William Harrison

Upon contacting Orange, William's father was told that by a shocked telephone operator that there should be a £40 limit per month on dongle usage, but they obviously weren't aware that this didn't apply to overseas usage.

"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."

Roger Harrison, William's father

Orange have offered to halve the bill and give repayment over a 24 month period. Whilst the terms & conditions do make mention of charges for usage abroad, it seems unreasonable that a user should be expected to pay such a high charge when Orange staff both selling the device and dealing with queries about it are not aware of the costs of usage abroad. Orange also informed the Harrisons that to monitor their usage would be a breach of customer privacy policy, a comment they later, thankfully, retracted.

"We have a number of initiatives in place to help customers control their costs and we hope that these, as well as the customer's own individual responsibility, will ensure customers can manage their roaming costs appropriately. All our roaming charges are available on our website, and literature which advises that these are separate to the inclusive UK data allowance accompanies the dongle at the point of purchase.

"Our customer service and retail staff are also trained to advise on the associated costs when travelling abroad, and our dongles are not activated for roaming unless specifically requested by the customer. In addition, our dongles feature a usage tracker alert option which allows users to manage how much data they are using."

Orange statement

EU law is being introduced to help avoid this 'bill shock' but this only regulates wholesale costs to a maximum of €1 per megabyte, not significantly less than the £2.94 per megabyte that Orange charge. This will only come in to affect from March. European countries will also have to add a 'cut off' facility to ensure that data downloading doesn't occur beyond an agreed limit. This limit comes in to affect from July and will be set at €50 (£44). This will obviously be too late for the Harrisons, but at least progress is being made, and perhaps Orange will see the light and reduce their bill, taking the hit as good PR as some have done in the past.

Perhaps there is also a case for joined up thinking and proper roaming abroad. Most networks have partners in other European countries. Orange for example, owned by France Telecom, operate in most European countries including France, and they could offer free roaming across their entire European network. In the case here, if the usage had been on Orange's network in France, the the £8,000 bill would effectively be pure profit for France Telecom. It just needs one network to take the lead, and offer an innovative product such as this, to get the others on board playing catchup.


Posted by drteeth over 7 years ago
Fools and their money...
Posted by TonyHoyle over 7 years ago
Who would roam? Just pick up a SIM when you're in the country.

The roaming costs are pretty silly though.. it's still the Orange network in france.

As for believing sales staff in a phone shop.. who would do that? They only care that you drop the cash.. the truth you can work out later.

Posted by docki over 7 years ago
It's funny how when someone has a bill they don't want to pay someone always told them something which was the opposite. Bear fact of the matter is like most people he probably didn't read the terms and oncditions. SO fail fail fail. And as your a student you won't have to pay any of your loands back so welcome to the real world and PAY YOUR BILL!
Posted by t22design over 7 years ago
Wow, I'm suprised at the apparent animosity towards this guy.

Not everyone hangs around technology blogs, and some people actually have faith in what they are being told by company representatives.

Yes, this guy was naive, but the telecoms companies have been getting away with these crazy roaming charges for too long.

They could easily implement limits, like the supposed £40 one mentioned by Orange's staff.
Posted by semitone over 7 years ago
"All our roaming charges are available on our website"

If it is there it is very well hidden. I just looked on the Orange website under the section showing the pricing plans for mobile dongles and there is no mention of roaming charges. Infact they have several items called "Internet Everywhere". To me "Everywhere" includes Europe...

Agreed, this chap should have read ALL of the terms and conditions, but Orange (and the other mobile operators) should be reasonable about such things.
Posted by nmg196 over 7 years ago
This is ridiculous. Even if the bill is halved it's still ridiculous and I hope they refuse to pay it. Data roaming roams to the Internet the Internet is international and pretty much free, therefore roaming charges cost the operator almost nothing (especially as Orange are already in both countries - it's not truely 'roaming' at all!).
Posted by andysm over 7 years ago
The dongle was mis-sold. You can't tell someone one thing in the shop in order to make a sale and then hide behind your T&C when it turns out the info you gave was wrong.
Posted by gbswales over 7 years ago
Telephone companies are notorious for ripping off their customers with roaming charges. With large international companies there is no real reason why there should be any extra charges at all - this would cost them little other than losing excessive profit.
Posted by gbswales over 7 years ago
Also beware of "free" services like skype and msn - in voice and video mode they can consume megabytes faster than you can talk! When my partner lived in Thailand I had difficulty managing on my allowance - we used to chat and video as if we were spending the day together and I quickly used up my free allowances
Posted by richiethom over 7 years ago
I would happily pay an extra quid per month to be able to have unlimited data roaming in another EU country of my choice - I spend my time between the UK and France, and currently only go online when on WiFi or in the UK.

Wrt "Data roaming roams to the Internet the Internet is international and pretty much free", you may find that while you are roaming, your IP address is still in the UK (this was definitely the case on GPRS), thus you aren't just using a POP near where you are in France/Greece etc, but are actually travelling all the way back to the UK before you 'enter' the internet proper.
Posted by Rroff over 7 years ago
About time someone highlighted the stupidity of the system... sure to someone like me these charges are patently obvious but to the average consumer who won't be as clued up its an easy thing to overlook.

He shouldn't have had unlimited credit simple as... Orange are at fault for not telling him or cutting him off when useage got above a reasonable amount.
Posted by mikerr over 7 years ago
I find it amazing 3 didn't cut him off after using £1000 of credit.

They certainly would if you used your mobile phone abroad for long...
Posted by tommy45 over 7 years ago
Give orange the 2 fingered salute, daylight robbery,£2.+ per mb of data,lol All your mobile telco's love to rob their customers if they are given the opportunity to,i can remember my mobile account always calls to numbers i had not dialed,in the end i just refused to pay for them,eventually they waived the outstanding disputed call charges
Posted by philce over 7 years ago
3 used to have "3 like home" which treated roaming a 3 network as being at home, inclusive minutes etc.
They stopped this last year, 3 before I really needed it!
Still like other posters have said, its very easy to get a local sim, just have a look about before you go to get the best deal.

Its still daylight robbery though!
Posted by planetf1 over 7 years ago
IMO Orange (and any of the co's) are behaving irresponsibly if they don't apply a sensible credit check and validation to accounts.

It's so easy to use data abroad with current technology - indeed it might be prudent for everyone to default to having data disabled when roaming abroad (I do this, fortunately 3UK let you control this yourself on the website, still like a limit though)

Any credit card company will quickly block a transaction if it's outside a normal spending pattern in case of fraud. It's about time the mobile cos did the same.

irresponsible IMO.
Posted by shaunhw over 7 years ago
Any credit card company would also have a set a credit limit as well. No way did this cost the telcos so much money. It would all be sheer profit and is as such, a blatent rip off.

The telcos should be required by law to agree a MAXIMUM credit limit and/or require pre-payment, and after that, simply cut off the connection, with a warning as the limit approaches.

It's completely LUDICROUS they should be able to levy these kind of charges against an unsuspecting customer who had not agreed to them. I would even regard it as bordering on extortion and as such criminal in nature.
Posted by otester over 7 years ago
Ignorance is not an excuse, that'll teach William to read contracts in full and double check costs.

Buy a sim abroad, much easier and cheaper!

200MB for £10 with Orange ES (PAYG), was great for Youtube-ing.
Posted by jtthedevil over 7 years ago
I hope a few of the above posters never fall off their high horses.
This is a blatent rip off by a large international company. The product was missold. Why are some so quick to blame 'the student' and laugh at what would be a very worring development for anyone. Has noone else been promised something by a salesperson, either in ignorance or deceipt, from a telco?
Posted by shaunhw over 7 years ago
Ignorant or not, Extortion is illegal, and that to me, seems to be exactly that.

Reading the story, i seems he went to the shop, bought something for use in france, and took the advice at face value.

These telcos surely know that no one in their right mind would pay so much for so little use, and run up such a bill. Therefore when a bill like that comes up it has to be in error. They should be responsible and set limits.

Posted by otester over 7 years ago

It'll teach people to be naive.


It's not extortion, he put himself in that position by being ignorant. None of this was forced upon him.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
quote"last September and received a bill for £6,101.56 after the first month of usage. He immediately queried the bill and got the dongle blocked, but further usage between the date of the bill and the dongle being block increased it to £7,648.77."

He knew it was costing a fortune and continued to use it until it was blocked entirely, i have no sympathy. If he had stopped using it, rather than pumping it for another grand and a half he may of had a case. Rip off indeed but he knew it was a rip off and continued.
Posted by pje1979 over 7 years ago
CARPETBURN that's not how I read it.

Say for example his bill gets issued on 1st January for £6,101.56, if he doesn't read it immediately on the date of issue then he is going to be charged until he does notice and phones up, i.e after 1st January.

In any case roaming charges can take up to 3 months to appear on your bill anyway.
Posted by docki over 7 years ago

Come on we all know people lie when they are in a corner. I've spoken to people in my daily job who claim that person they spoke to before offered them all sorts. Different how they act when they find out the person they spoke to last. was me...
Posted by mpellatt over 7 years ago

He specifically asked the sales person about use in France, and was told his 3GB monthly usage would be adequate - quite clearly a misrepresentation (assuming his description of the conversation is correct)


Well... see pje1979's comment. Are you aware of the stupendous alacrity with which roaming charges get applied to bills ?? It makes cheque clearance look positively 21st-century.

And, frankly, I WOULD believe this person over the Orange sales person. If Tax Credit staff will lie to a tribunal....
Posted by chrysalis over 7 years ago
if he that quote in writing saying 3gig would be adequate I think he would be able to get the lot written off, as it stands I expect orange have written half of for PR reasons.
Posted by otester over 7 years ago

Since when does anyone solely believe a salesman?

Common sense > William.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
Oranges terms and charges and very clear, they are not even hidden on a seperate webpage to the product...
QUOTE"Roaming: European Union countries cost £3 per MB while the Rest of the World costs £6.46 per MB."
I hope as he is a student part of his studying involves reading to prepare him for real life. Nobody disagrees the charge is a rip off, but the charges are perfectly clear. I bet at home if his internet has a monthly limit he knows the additional charges per gig or whatever. His own fault IMO.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
Opps that link should had been

The charge is even clearer in the included documentation...
He has no excuse.
Posted by EnglishRob over 7 years ago
I'm surprised that it even worked abroad being PAYG, I'm sure both my old Virgin Mobile PAYG phone and Three contract phone won't work abroad unless I specifically phone them first and tell them I want roaming enabled.

Could be wrong though, I guess I best check before I go abroad.
Posted by videopoet over 7 years ago
@ carpetburn
you make too make too many assumptions; you could tell my partner that it was going to cost her £3 per MB, but there is absolutely no way she know or expect that to translate into £Ks per month. And there's the nub, its not just that the charges are excessive, they are clearly intended to make maximum profit from anyone who does not fully understand the implications. As such they probably catch many many more people, just not to the same extent. That doesn't make it any less of a rip off or any more justifiable.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
The excuse of not knowing what a Megabit or whatever is doesnt wash. If i tried to sell you a car that did 2 miles per litre, you would go find out what a litre of fuel cost first if you didnt already know.
I dont think much of the company Orange but their prices are clear, just like a petrol station they are there in black and white, not hidden at all.
If you choose not to read a contracts terms or take note of its prices thats the users fault.
Id had blasted Orange if they hid the roaming charges but they clearly dont and what the shop told him we only have their word on.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
Of course the pricing is designed for maximum profit, just like fuel prices be them Gas, Electric or Petrol are at the moment. Student William IMO has just had a wake up call, one which would had been avoided if he bothered to read documentation on the service.
Posted by discgosforth over 7 years ago
There are bigger issues than the customer understanding the T&C's. While in Northern Ireland my Orange mobile automatically connected to a base station just over the border in Eire. Lasted less than an hour and only cost buttons but the potential of running up a large bill while I was still in the UK was worrying.
If the EU want to get involved in policing this industry then why don't they do it properly? We're supposed to be a community without borders so lets scrap these silly roaming charges altogether.
Posted by dafranmo over 7 years ago
Comments made by vendor staff in the sales process form part of the resultant contract just as much as the written Ts&Cs. The days when vendors could make fictitious claims about price, performance, warranty etc. and then hide behind the written contract went years ago as a result of court judgments. The issue is whether the claims are truthful.
The young man in question should let this go to court - he'll probably win.
Posted by xb0xguru over 7 years ago
@CARPETBURN - if you were told by an Orange salesperson that it would be covered, why would you then go and check the T&Cs? Do you second guess EVERYTHING you're told? and the increase in the total of the bill was more than likely due to the time it took for the post to arrive, unless you have an instant paper-mail service you want to divulge?

It was mis-sold, therefore they should strike the balance. End of.
Posted by adagio over 7 years ago
The student may have a case that he was mislead when he made the contract - he shouls take a look at,_%27slamming%27_and_special_offers_for_mobile_phone_contracts
Posted by morse over 7 years ago
Recent experience with O2 where the MD used his dongle over in France. £4K bill on his return. Reading the terms and conditions it only states "The prices shown do not incorporate data roaming rates. Usage whilst roaming will incur additional third party network operator’s charges and these charges may be significant."
Needless to say, the MD does not see the additional charge as 'significant'!
A few other words have been used. O2 have offered to halve the bill but it still seems more than 'significant'. The case rumbles on.
Posted by Toots3D over 7 years ago
Posted by CARPETBURN 4 days ago
Of course the pricing is designed for maximum profit, just like fuel prices be them Gas, Electric or Petrol are at the moment. Student William IMO has just had a wake up call, one which would had been avoided if he bothered to read documentation on the service.

You are right with what you say Carpetburn, but I have been a customer of Orange for many years and unfortunately Orange are the worst for hiding details on their site :( I would move providers, but Orange are the only ones with decent signal strength where I live :(
Posted by MJSUSER over 7 years ago
CARPETBURN - You miss the point: In my experience service providers, set out to exhort money from the unsuspecting in the knowledge that the majority cannot afford the time or cost to fight back. The consumers reasonable expectation to receive a fair service at a fair cost is too often deliberately forgotten by obstructive customer services designed to make Mr Ave give up & go away. This coupled mis-selling at retail level leads to deep mistrust. I won my court case for costs. Not surprisingly in a test today the same erroneous info is being given by the same outlet. It pays.
Posted by andykcole over 7 years ago
as far as I'm concerned this is another example of ''rip off Britain ..even though the cost was right the price is a total rip off.. I ditched Orange because of their high charges 2 years ago. I find a hotspot wifi and get all my browsing for free when abroad anyway using my O2 iPhone 3Gs..
Posted by bristolbachelor over 7 years ago
I have Vodafone in Spain, and data charges are per Gig, but reset every 30 minutes or every "connection". My phone used almost 18€ of credit doing a GPS lookup because each conenction to teh server was charged as 1 Gb. Total data use was under 170k!!

My wife has contract Voda Spain, but uses O2 pay & go roaming on data because it's cheaper than using Voda Spain in Spain !!!
Posted by TGVrecord over 7 years ago
Mobile phone companies do rip us off. One example of a rip off with Vodafone is the high charges using a mobile to phone 0800 and 0845 numbers. These numbers are free and local rates respectively from a land line but are treated as premium cost calls from a mobile.

I wonder how many people have been caught out whilst phoning their bank call centers? Whilst on the subject of banks they have rip off prices as well!

Posted by UKSTEVE over 7 years ago
Orange deserve to be strung up for this - an utter utter disgrace. They are RIGHT UP THERE in ripping customers off with 3 - I will never buy an Orange phone ever again.

Posted by UKSTEVE over 7 years ago
Orange deserve to be strung up for this - an utter utter disgrace. They are RIGHT UP THERE in ripping customers off with 3 - I will never buy an Orange phone ever again.

Posted by huttonit over 7 years ago
Welcome to Rip-Off Britain.

Only the dishonest are rewarded and to make it worse the cheats have the law to back them up too.

Emigrate to Poland and claim political asylum then claim the dole....
Posted by c803513 over 7 years ago
The above would seem to be a good reason to use PAYG mobile broadband, even if it is more expensive (normally) than a contract. Once all the PAYG credit is spent, they cannot charge you any more (and presumably will cut you off).
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