back to article Man uses mobe as modem, rings up £27k phone bill

We are indebted to The Mirror for the latest example of mobile data charging madness, this time in England. Ian Simpson, a factory worker from Darlington, downloaded TV programmes onto his laptop using his mobile phone as a modem - and racked up charges of £27,322 in just one month. He says he may go bankrupt unless Vodafone " …


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  1. Malcolm Hall

    Get a grip

    So why are they STILL allowed to use the word unlimited when it is not. Get a grip Ofcom.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    I would suggest he doublechecks his bill

    It took Vodafone 3 months to stop charging me for every 1KB on the supposedly unlimited 3G broadband (I had to formally contest every bill). Based on my own experience I would not be surprised if he was charged from the first MB onwards.

  3. Rob

    Bunch of burglars!

    OK, I might well be a little bit confused here, it being the festive season and all, but we've got a mobile network saying "never use a mobile as a modem".

    So how does that tie in with all the "use your mobile as a modem" marketing coming from the.... mobile networks? Would I be way off base if I suggested that the marketing bastards designed the billing scheme so that people would go over and get punitive charges, but didn't expect (on account of being marketing fucktards) it to get this extreme?

  4. Phil Endecott

    So if I do want a mobile modem...

    > [Vodaphone] advises its customers to "never use a mobile as a modem".

    Have they really said that? It's a bit Luddite, isn't it? I mean, if you have a phone and a laptop that can talk to each other, then why on earth shouldn't you use them in that way?

  5. Craig Edwards

    data charges

    Vodafone actually have something in their small print which states that your transfer is only 'free' up to a certain amount if and only if it is HTTP traffic on port 80. Anything else they bill you at full whack for. They are very quiet about this. I often use my phone for mobile IRC and got bitten by this a few times, luckily IRC is very low bandwidth and the bill was not expensive. Still, beware when you see 'unlimited'.

  6. Glenn Gilbert

    Just as well he was using it in the UK

    All mobile phone companies are complete thieves when it comes to using data abroad.

    Take the "unlimited" data package of the iPhone from O2: £7.50 PER MEGABYTE when roaming 25 miles away in France. Goodness knows how much this guy would have been charged, probably close to the GDP of a small nation.

    Of course the phone companies have to charge that much to support their glitzy high-street stores and sports stadiums.

    Thankfully we have the EU to do the job of that toothless pile of OffCom. They've forced the price of phone calls down to a third of what they used to be when roaming in Europe. Time for them to jump on the data packages.

  7. Chad H.

    never use a phone as a modem?

    how can voda recommend that you never use a phone as a modem, when they sell a USB modem, which is a cellphone less keypad/screen/speaker/etc and other that SMS on your pc, has no other practical purpose?

  8. Anonymous Coward


    I went into t-mobile to buy a data modem and came out with an N95 plus matching contract, the deal is 3 Gig per month fair usage, slap on the wrist if you go over 3 Gig but they don't hit you for it - I hope that's right, I haven't gone over 3 gig yet I don't think.

    I think if the guy thought he was on all you can eat he should be ok, but a nasty situation.

  9. Andrew Tyler
    Thumb Down

    Holy #&$@*&!!!

    Granted, he should have read all the small print, but it's simply ridiculous they can get away with implying such a contract is 'unlimited' based upon what they expect the average user to use. That is splitting infinitives on a gargantuan scale and any high school English teacher would do as an expert witness for his case.

    I could understand throttling transfer rates beyond a certain quota, though I would still be hard pressed to believe this is actually unlimited. Of course, that bit of information is sort of missing from this article- did he simply believe it was unlimited or was it advertised as such? If the brochure uses the word unlimited to describe the contract, I would hardly consider him stupid for believing it actually was. Naive perhaps, but not stupid. Also, how do you get away with charging per-minute for data-transfer? I imagine there are a lot of 'convenient' (to the telco) 'network problems' limiting transfer rates.

  10. thedark1
    Thumb Down

    well, it was a little better for me

    i once got a bill for 1500$.... and i was on dial up!!!!

    a normal bloody 56k modem on my pc....

    i got the news while i was on buggered up my vacation big time....had to pay the bloody thing in installments....that's what you get for using the internet in 3rd world countries.

  11. John Murgatroyd

    The future's bright....

    In a moment of madness, I enlisted to the orange tv contract. With a fair-use of 1gb per month for a £10.00 fee, per month. The first month was £256.00. I vigorously contested this, and the next month was over £500.00 (first month + second month). It took them over two months to find out that they were charging me for data use and not for orange tv. I cancelled the tv contract. Their data fees are outrageous.

  12. paul dalton

    should have checked first

    No, its true.

    For God's sake don't use your mobe as a modem.

    I recently spent a week in Ireland.

    I had the foresight to call vodafone ie and uk. Vodafone uk said that I could use my phone for the internets at something like 2 pounds per megabyte. When I clarified that I wanted to (gasp) use my mobile as a modem for my laptop, that went up to 10 pounds per megabyte (plus 'service charges'), i.e. 12.50 pounds per megabyte.


    Thankfully I found a helpful relative with a 3g card and a sensible plan. I managed about 40 meg that week.

    If I hadn't checked that could have cost me around 500 pounds.

  13. Nigel Jones


    Forgetting the rip off rates sometimes applying to mobile data, IMO the network were irresponsible in not detecting this as an abnormal pattern and suspending/investigating earlier. That should happen at speeds comnesurate with the rate of charging ... and the owner should be warned by text etc.

    very irresponsible vodafone = you need to build controls/detection in. Also allow setting of credit limits and user controled caps on data.

  14. Richard Kilpatrick


    As mentioned above, T-Mobile seem to be the best guys here:

    £7.50/month 1GB Fair Use - three slaps on the wrist effectively, then they ask you to upgrade or restrict your service. Then £12.50 or so for 3GB, then £22 for 10GB.

    They don't seem to restrict usage particularly, but 1GB is no use as modem or VoIP (modem use is hard for them to pin down really), 3GB is no VoIP, and 10GB even allows VoIP.

    O2 are the total bastards, with their "Unlimited" package being 200MB (now, after much yelling by customers), but exceed that and it's £1.80 per MB, no warning, and all apart from web traffic is disallowed. I cancelled my O2 contract purely because of their awful data rates and service, turning down a free E90 and cashback in the process.

    The ASA should be preventing the marketing of capped (i.e. no warnings, but instant charging) services as "Unlimited".

    Points re: modem use - covered. Christ, what the hell IS mobile data for if not for modem use? If we just wanted mobile web pages and WAP, we'd still be on GPRS.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    I guess I won't be using this new phone for a modem then only reason I bought it but I can't afford this kind of bill.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    What's the real problem here?

    I find myself not having a lot of sympathy for the guy who run up the bill. Who in their right mind would download the Internet thinking that it covered by a low cost monthly tariff? I sure as heck wouldn't!

    However I am hostile towards the mobile phone company in this case because I feel they should apply reasonable logic. Their computer systems could easily block the signal once a preset limit is reached. Let's say £500 to begin with. So if matey got to £500 worth of calls then the system would cut him off from making further calls. If it turned out that his need was greater than that limit then a quick phone call to the mobile company could clear that obstacle. Leaving it to the consumer to find out that he's in serious debt possibly weeks after the problem occurred is just plain wrong IMHO.

  17. JeffyPooh

    I'm up to 19GB in five weeks via a mobe...

    Geesh, I pay about Cdn$94 per month (all taxes in) for a certain Telus 'Unlimited' Connect 75 (sic) data plan.

    No one can blame me for using the mobe device as a modem, BECAUSE THAT'S ALL IT IS. No mic, no speaker, no keyboard, no display, just a little mobe gadget with a USB plug. It is a Sierra Wireless 595U in case you want to Google the image. It is plugged into a very cool CTR-350 WiFi router to make a hotspot in the forest. Ah, life is good.

    Here is a cut-and-paste from my on-line bill with only some punctuation added for clarity:

    "Data Usage (1x/EvDO): 19,055,937 Kilobytes = $0.00"

    So, 19GB in about five weeks. No extra charge. Nada.

    So our $85k man in Calgary should accept Bell's offer of the 'lowest equivalent plan', and then he should write them a cheque for $94.

    Same thing for anyone else. Here's your 50 quid, now get stuffed. I don't think that the bandits, I mean Telcos, would want to stand in front of the wigged beak and try to explain the math and the technical details. THEY WOULD NOT WANT TO TAKE THAT CHANCE !!!! If they lose, they lose big time.

    I just started another blog tonight (somewhat related):

    Happy New Year!

  18. Tom Kerrigan

    Future is getting brighter

    Hopefully Google, with its open phone platform and its intention of creating a 700mhz network, will solve this problem in the US.

    The cell phone ecosystem is currently in a proprietary, pre-IBM PC state and the network system is in a pre-Internet state akin to Compuserve/AOL/Prodigy/etc.

    And the reason we're all in this primitive state is because T-Mobile/Verizon/AT&T/etc. have the resources to lock us in. It will take a company like Google, with billions to bid on spectrum, to break this stranglehold and allow us to progress beyond this kind of nonsense.

  19. Rob McDougall

    That's the problem...

    ...with a saturated market. And it's only going to get worse!

  20. Andy Hards
    Thumb Up

    My 1st couple of months

    using 3's x-series, with 1gig for a fiver, was a bit of a mess because when you first sign up with it as an add on the 1gig is supposed to last you 2 months and so a week into my 2nd month I got a text saying I was nearing my limit. I phoned them up to ask what limit they were referring to and was told that i'd used well over a gig and was now at £250 at £2 per extra Mb. I asked how this could be as in my first month I'd not used anywhere near 1gig and now only one week into my 2nd month I'd used well over 1gig? So after a few calls back and forth as they guy on the phone couldn't see how it was possible either I found out that when you 1st sign up the 1gig has to last you 2 billing cycles. I checked everywhere and could not find this referred to anywhere on their t&c's and after 3 weeks of me calling and getting the names of people to write to and threatening to call watchdog and Superman and Doctor Who they did waive it (by then it was close to £500 as I was still using it knowing I'd not used 1gig that month yet). They also made it clearer on their terms and conditions. To be fair though they did text me when it got to £250. Also if you get one of their new plug in modems at £10 per month for 3gigs and go over the 3gigs they only charge you 10 pence per Mb and you get a text for every £1 it costs you. Fair enough I reckon. People slag off 3 but every time I've had a problem they've sorted it out straight away.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Little sympathy for either party.

    I find it hard to be sympathetic for Mr Simpson. To quote the article, "Simpson *thought* he had an all-you can eat deal for unlimited web use". He didn't. That's his fault (assuming he's not been lied to when signing his contract). A quick look at the Vodafone web site shows they don't offer an unlimited plan - the max is... you guessed it, 120MB.

    That said, I do agree that Vodafone should have caught this sooner, though I'm not suprised they haven't. As has been commented on several times in these pages, Vodafone's billing system isn't perfect and their customer services are known to be patchy. Now we just need to find a way that they can *both* lose their money in this deal...

  22. Jack Garnham

    dial up via mobile vs using mobile data...

    After reading both of these articles it's still not clear to me whether the poor sods in each case used Dial up access or simply jacked into their phone's existing data connection.

    "Using a phone as a modem" suggests the former, and does indeed carry with it absolutely obscene pricing. This is where you would plug in your phone or connect via Bluetooth, install modem drivers, and create a connection with a number and everything! Just like the good old days of using dial up on a PC.

    "Using your phone's GPRS/EDGE/3G/HSDPA connection via USB or Bluetooth" is transparent to the network AFAIK. This is basically the same as above but instead of dialling a UK Dial up service provider's number, you pass a string to the modem (dependant on the connection) and dial #99# I think(?).

    I have used my Windows Mobile smartphones of many generations for many years now to allow me to access the web on my laptop, and never gone over my Orange World access allowance. Granted, I haven't been downloading TV programmes or music. I think I tried to get some porn once when I was drunk and the hotel pay per view was broken but I digress.

    The networks need to clarify this and as responsible operators need to provide information to customers on how best to use their mobiles for data, if they intend to do so.

    If, as usual, I am wrong. And these people have been using the latter method of web access, then OFCOM really do need to grow a spine and get on the case. As the word "Unlimited" is thrown around far too carelessly in the world of Telecomms when the reality is that it's far from unlimited.

  23. Jeff

    Never use a phone as a modem?

    That's not what Vodafone Mobile Connect, the Voda branded software that lets me... USE MY PHONE AS A MODEM... says.

    Left hand, meet right hand.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Hats off to DiGi

    Gotta love DiGi. I used my TyTN to download a few Youtube videos (courtesy of the youtube downloader that came with the TCPMP FLV plugins), chat on MSN, Yahoo and AOL like a teenage schoolgirl does SMS, fooled around with google maps, bid on a few auctions and paid off a few that I've won, and lots of el-reg, wikipedia access and moderation, and in the end I get a bill for RM66 (roughly 10 quid/US$20) because I'm on their all-you-can-eat package. Fair use? What fair use?

    Sure, it aint 3G, but when you're stuck in a long train or car trip, you don't really have anything else better to do, and EDGE surfs up most stuff at decent speed.

  25. Bo Pedersen


    no wonder so many manufacturers were giving away free pcmcia cards coloured in bright red, bearing the vodafone logo awaiting your mobile phone sim card.

    time to get those phone companies regulated properly

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Was offered "Unlimited" internet access for an extra £7/month (or, aparently all users are capped at £1 a day charge, no use limit... again this is complete bullcr*p) via 3G.

    I was not informed of the fair usage policy which i later found out was...

    and i take this with a pinch of salt as most phone monkeys know sweet fa about their job, "3GB" (thats gigabytes, i asked them to repeat, not gigabit) a month, i had to ask them this after they tried charging me an extra £30 for using 200MB after double, f*ck no, triple checking i wouldnt be overcharged by calling them several times to speak to more monkeys.

    in the end, im just carefull how i use it, i dont dare attempt to remove the offer, however after this first hurdle i have yet to be overcharged, but using it how i would LIKE to use mobile internet is too much of a risk (putty, gmail, downloading music off my webserver at random locations in the UK, the amazing new google maps mobile edition, etc)

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    This is one person who should probably do what we all want to do and report Voda to OFCOM and the ASA for incorrect us of the word "unlimited".

    Last time I had a look unlimited meant that there were no limits or limitations (otherwise it would be "limited").

    I imagine Voda would write off his bill in an instant rather than have to stand up in court and try to argue that unlimited means limited.

  28. Nick Pettefar

    One Day...

    Roaming and data will be at normal rates allowing us to use mobile systems, as intended, and we will look back at this (overly long) period of telco criminality with almost an air of nostalgia. Comedy sketches will be written about it, bills will be featured in museums and even phrases about it will make it into general use - "about as generous as a telco", "they've done a Vodafone on me", etc.

    One day...

  29. Paul Vigay
    IT Angle

    Daft if you don't read the small print with a magnifying glass

    Although you could probably be forgiven for not understanding UK mobile contracts, as they're all pretty confusing and ISP mobile providers are all a bunch of cowboys.

    I agree with the people who say that Ofcom ought to step in and slap companies who label things "unlimited" when in fact they /are/ limited.

    However, you also need to examine the T&Cs of your tariff closely. I'm with T-Mobile and on my tariff their GPRS charges are extortionate - about £7.50 per meg. However, I get (relatively) cheap data calls so if I know I'm going to be downloading a fair bit of data, it actually works out cheaper to use the phone as a modem but not on GPRS, but by dialling into my normal ISP on their 0845 number. Although it's slower, it's charged per minute and still works out a lot cheaper than GPRS with T-mobile.

    I don't really use mobile internet enough to pay the (regular) additional subsription for 'unlimited' data calls. However, for the average 'high street customer' I'd say the whole subject is rather confusing for non-techies.

  30. Richard Thompson
    Thumb Down

    Vodafone suck!!!


    I had a similar experience with Vodafone last month. Not quite as bad as what this gentleman did, but a £346.40 private bill really hurts! Especially just before Christmas!

    They (Vodafone) claim I used 108mb in the space of 30 minutes downloading mail from my mail server! I've produced logs proving I did not use that amount of data yet they are not prepared to do anything about it. At the time my phone only had 64mb worth of storage so downloading 108mb is physically impossible! Currently i've got no clue what more I can do! I've cancelled my direct debit, written letters, etc but still sit £280 out of hand because of this.

    Any advice?

  31. Simon Painter

    To summarise...

    Guy takes out contract without reading it and then runs up bill. Is too stupid to understand what he has done wrong and tries to make out he is the victim.

    A few years ago I had the free Orange email alert service where they send you a free text message with the headers and subject of every email you get so you can go check your email when the important stuff arrives. At the time there was no push email and data services on the mob were a lot more pricey.

    I went to stay with my father in Holland for a couple of weeks and during that time was charged 20p per text for every single email I received... that ended up being around £250 which was a real pain in the ass. I checked the smallprint and had a think about it and really any d!ck with half a brain should have realised that the alerts were not going to be free abroad so I paid up and took the hit. I find it hard to believe that anyone is dumb enough to think that there is going to be a mobile solution out there that is economical for downloading TV shows as even the DSL packages are trying to discourage you from doing it now.

    I say make this guy pay up as a lesson to stop other people thinking they can use things without reading the smallprint, it worked for me.

  32. Andy Davies

    never use a phone as a modem

    Chad H said: how can voda recommend that you never use a phone as a modem, when they sell a USB modem, which is a cellphone less keypad/screen/speaker/etc and other that SMS on your pc, has no other practical purpose?

    Exactly, I've got one! - haven't been able to get it to work when I'm in India tho' so I use my Nokia as a modem - costs me Rs 14.95 a day (about 20p) - cheaper than dial-up. It's slow and seems there's some throttling after you download about 500Mb but usable.

    AndyD 8-)#

  33. John

    Re: What's the real problem here?

    "I find myself not having a lot of sympathy for the guy who run up the bill. Who in their right mind would download the Internet thinking that it covered by a low cost monthly tariff? I sure as heck wouldn't!"

    This is what happens when advertising decides to reinterpret words that the public understands such as "unlimited". Lets look at it from the side of someone with little technical no how, and certainly no awareness that the ISP's and mobile operators speak a different English to the rest of us. Punters are used to seeing broadband connections from what £10 or £15, aren't there even one or two lower ones, like £7.50 for a *massive* 1GB FUP. Suddenly if your that Punter the £41+ mobile data connection seems expensive, and could very easily look "unlimited"

    Advertising should very simply be forced to use dictionary definitions in its product descriptions, no more, no less. Not invent a new meaning for words in the small print.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fancy that!

    Using a mobe as a mode, what a noob.

  35. Steven
    Jobs Horns

    Vodafone are a complete Rip-Off - T-Mobile - very hard to beat

    I ditched Vodafone last year, as they cannot offer any kind of competitive deal against T-Mobile. I regularly use my phone as a modem - and most often at speeds of 1- 1.8 Mbit (on HSDPA). An absolutely fab service from T-Mobile. With calls and texts - my bill is almost never over £50 per month......

    Unlimited should mean unlimited - I'm shocked that operators can use that terminology and as one commenter mentions - restrict that to 200Mb ???


  36. Barnaby Self
    Thumb Down

    O2 and Google maps for mobile

    I managed to run up a £200 phone bill with O2 UK about a year ago just after I found Google Maps. I was showing everyone what it was like! I cancelled my contract paid them off and vowed never to go back to O2 ever again. I now use T-Mobile as my personal and Voda for work and havent had such a bad bill since, even after I used my Voda as a modem while I was moving house.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    take em to the small claims court

    what gets me is why all you guys getting ripped off by these data plans that charge for free web site data,havent taken them to the courts with a simple county court small claim like the masses of the UK users took the banks to court?.

    surely its time this ripoff were they are charging for free data is stopped,put a simple legal notice on all the web pages that deny the charging of any data to these companys and see were that leads.

    makeing a fair profit on supplying the pipe to the data is one thing, makeing a charge and not paying the website its going rate (90% of any charge is fair) for supplying that data the end users wants is just wrong.

    make the mobile/ISP data plan profiteers pay the websites and watch them sqirm for once.

  38. Gordon

    Why are they kidding?

    I really don't see where these people get off writing "Unlimited" on the packages and then putting a "fair usage policy" in the fine-print. It's ridiculous, honestly. I'd say that they'd have "issues" if I put a "Fair Charge" policy on my bill and refused to pay more then £30 a month, just in order to be "fair" to my other creditors. If there IS a limit of 1Gb or so, then it simply isn't "unlimited" - and their use of the word is indefensible.

    I don't use mobile data for precisely these reasons. But then I work in IT, and I'm exposed to things (like The Register) that make me aware of these problems. But if I worked in another industry (or the problem existed in another industry) i'd be unaware and could easilly get caught.

  39. AB

    @Simon Painter

    > Guy takes out contract without reading it and then runs up bill. Is too stupid to understand what he has done wrong and tries to make out he is the victim.

    Your sweeping statement only applies if the contract is fair (and therefore reasonably enforceable).

    From the DTI website:

    "The requirement of good faith embodies a general ‘principle of fair and open dealing’. It does not simply mean that a term should not be used in a deceitful way. Suppliers are expected to respect consumers’ legitimate interests in drafting contracts, as well as negotiating and carrying them out."

    This bill is presumably around 1000 times the size of a normal consumer bill. Is it not reasonable to expect Vodafone to be fair and open enough to check with the consumer before allowing him to use almost £30,000 worth of services ON CREDIT?! I use the word 'worth' advisedly, of course, as any fule no that the cost to Voda of providing this service (at least before this thing hits court) can't be more than a few rounds at their local in Newbury...

  40. popper

    dealer want to be heard, what about the users...

    of course theres also this related story today, as usual nothing for the end users though other than paying through the nose.


    “It’s the first time dealers have had the opportunity to talk directly to Ofcom and everyone has jumped at it.”

    Caudle added that he would develop an agenda for dealers’ input to the meeting via the IMPDA and Phone Dealer Forums. Along with cashback and misselling, dealers would focus on network relationships and the future of the mobile industry in general.

    “We want to get more give from the networks,” he said. “For example, O2 won’t let authorised O2 dealers have the iPhone until January. It’s crazy. We’re hoping Ofcom’s influence on the networks will help us.”



  41. Rupert Benson

    What do you expect?

    I must admit to sympathy for the users in these cases, although they were indeed negligent for not reading the terms and conditions fully. I also agree that both these cases should have been picked up by the networks earlier as they DO have software that runs daily / hourly reports on high usage. However, you and I and everyone else expects the networks to provide a service which, 9 times out of 10, is far superior to that of the Fixed Networks, you expect to be able to move around, country to country, send text messages, send and receive videos etc etc etc. Who do you think pays for all this? All the technology employed by the networks costs hundreds of millions to install and run - just so you can make a call. They are a business, as a business, their ethos is to make money. In real terms over the last 22 years of mobile networks in the UK, mobile calls have decreased by over 90% taking inflation into account whilst coverage, quality and services have increased exponentially. If you over-regulate, you will get an inferior service, regulation is not the answer, consumer awareness is, vote with your feet - check the contracts, all is never what it seems!

  42. Anonymous Coward


    Re: OFCOM / ASA

    I tried that. Did not work. ASA cannot do shit, because the advertisements do not say "unlimited". Only the commercial materials and leaflets do. So you actually have to drive this through OFT and trading standards, not ASA.

    Re: Little sympathy for either party.

    I went and bought Vodafone 3G broadband a few months ago. The sales agent went to circle the terms on the printed material to show me what I am buying - 3Gb, 25 quid a month, 8 quid per day roaming. After that she turned around and typed into the terminal 250MB a month, 12.50 MB per MB roaming. Classic fraud slam at its best. So you may check as you wish, until your first bill has arrived you do not realistically know what are you on. Further to this, Voda wonderful billing system does not reflect any recalculations and changes until next month so you cannot even know if you have managed to contest the charges. And on top of that it tries to bill you for usage which should have been free to see if you do not bother (another classic slam). So, the explanation by the original victim may have indeed been correct. I would not be surprised if he was sold an unlimited deal and put on 120 without him noticing.

    Re: Richard Thompson

    I suggest your first phrase when speaking to their "advisors" is to say "I intend to record this conversation for trading standards purposes. Do you allow the recording?". If they say no - ask to speak to a manager until you get a yes. By that time you get to a point where you have someone who understands that you cannot fit 108MB into 64.

    Re: data charges

    They have a trigger most likely based on Deep Packet Inspection to detect VOIP and Skype which are prohibited by their AUP. Unfortunately detecting Skype via DPI is a messy business. The only constant is 0x02 at specific offset and that it is UDP. As a result the DPI misfires massively on any UDP traffic like VPNs. If you shout at them for a couple of months in a row they end up shrugging it off and turning it off on your account. It took me 3 months to get there.

  43. Anonymous Coward


    For all those who say they have no sympathy for the punter, just consider exactly how many times nowadays you have to sign up to wordy terms just e.g. to open an email account etc.

    Consider how many average guys on the street know the difference between HTTP traffic and TCP/IP Port 80?

    Key terms need to be clear and unambiguous - you can't say unlimited then introduce any kind of limit, and I would love to see someone fight this fully in court.

    It's a total minefield and I agree with those who have pointed out that the regulator is taking a back seat when he needs to be driving this through.

    Nearly all the rip-off issues with the operators could be fixed with legislation on advertising and forcing all operators provide a clear and common STANDARD price comparison table.

    This STANDARD comparison table should also include average cost of calling from worldwide zones, e.g. Europe and Rest of World. If the regulator was savvy enough they would mandate the average is an average of the cost in each country and not weighted by volume of calls.

    A standard price comparison table would introduce just a bit of competition back into a market.

    What is also urgently needed is a limit to the liability that can be incurred when being asked to sign "terms". Also bear in mind that, according to law, there is already some limitation on liability that can be incurred through contracts. Hopefully the punter has a decent deal with the newspaper and is getting some legal assistance.

    Finally, points come to mind on subject of neutral internet. Most mobile providers put some limit on the type of traffic that is bundled, but many allow VPN access as they make a lot of money from businesses like mine who provide a card per employee. It is then impossible to limit access to e.g. VoIP, even though some businesses have signed contracts saying they won't use it for VoIP.

    Please don't say he deserved it when so many of these gotchas (maybe not this one, who knows) are in fact well laid traps.

  44. Cliff

    Who sold him the contract - I have a hunch...

    When I was looking at alternatives to my T-Mobile Web'n'walk I asked in a UK High Street phone shop (the national chain advertised with a smug American and who get all L337-speak with a number in their name). Said shop was very very slick with me being passed by name and formal introduction to the manager when I questioned the package, and then told in plain English with no qualifiers, that the Vodafone package was UNLIMITED data, and in that sense 'identical' to my WnW. The Vodafone shop denied strenuously the existence of any kind of 'unlimited' data package - theirs was capped at 120Megs, that's all that was on offer, there was no such thing, in short, as the LIES AND DELIBERATE DECEPTION from the slick shop who almost bullied me into signing on the spot...

    Perhaps this poor soul was slightly less cynical about the phone pushers in that shop, and was just plain outright lied to, perhaps he was unable to read all the small print and did ask?

  45. Steve


    Can all the people posting comments slagging off Vodafone's use of "unlimited" do some research first. Vodafone does not call this plan unlimited anywhere. It clearly states in numerous places that you get 120Mb for his £7.50 extra. It does also say that if you go over this then it costs you £1 a day for a further 15Mb then £2 per Mb above that. It really is quite clear.

    Yes, Vodafone's systems could have flagged it sooner but if he downloaded a high number of Gb quickly then it could have acrued before it got to billing. It is only 15Gb

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Go Bankrupt

    The bloke should just go bankrupt. Assuming he aint got a house then will be debt free and discharged in about eight months. Drink up!

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    voda 120MB

    I use Vodafone and I have the 120MB data package.

    NOTE - I say I have the 120MB package. At no point was it sold to me as 'unlimited' - and I bought directly from vodafone. They also make no differentiation between http traffic and any other - nor can I find anything in my t&c's about that. Data traffic is data traffic end of f'in story. I don't have a http traffic bundle - I have a data traffic bundle. Mostly I use it for ssh and as of yet I've not come anywhere near 120MB in a month.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I have little sympathy for this guy. I have the 7.50 add on from T-Mobile for "unlimited" browsing. It's made clear that it's for the phone, not as a modem. The shop had the modems clearly shown with information stating that that was the way to browse on a PC, not a phone.

    I have however discovered that the phone can still be used with a PC. I MADE THE EFFORT to call T-Mobile and find out what this was going to cost me.

    I have no sympathy for people who think they should be OK. If you do not know for sure then find out. It's not hard.

  49. Adrian Waterworth

    Still don't understand...

    ...why anyone in their right mind would want any kind of data package on their phones in the first place? It's a phone. It's got a crappy little screen, crap data rates and a crap keyboard (even if it is a Jesus phone or similar). Use it for making phone calls. If you can't then live without your precious Internet for more than a couple of hours, just stay in front of your computer and don't leave the house/office for God' sake!

    And that's coming from someone who worked in the IT game for 15 years or more and who has managed to run development teams, support outfits and even a couple of small companies without ever actually _needing_ to access the Internet/web/email/whatever on a mobile. Even when on holiday, abroad or travelling on business for any length of time.

    Mind you, O2 did once try to charge me a couple of hundred quid for GSM data calls (that I had never made) on one of my phones. It took a fair bit of shouting at them and a lengthy explanation that I did have some idea of how network management and billing systems could go wrong, before they finally admitted that they had, in fact, cocked up and that I could have a refund and a couple of months free line rental and a grovelling apology and could I please stop hitting them now 'cos it was making them feel very bad and even more sorry? So I do agree that most mobile operators are a bunch of thieving, incompetent bar-stewards. More reason not to pay them extra money for a "service" that, at the end of the day, will be crap and you almost certainly do not really need.

    Er...and with a rant like that I suspect a "Bah Humbug!" is probably in order isn't it? I think I've got some in me coat pocket...

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another Point of Sale problem

    Having spent a few moments in CPW this week I was shocked at the poor point of sale information provided by the shop assistants. I am not saying over the phone direct sales is any better. With complex products and services I am not surprised that punters don't really know what they are buying and the retailers don't really care. Seems like basic ethics are taking a back seat more and more. If people keep being shafted by technology and service companies hopefully people will stop buying and keep their money in the bank!

  51. sean bone



    • adjective not limited or restricted; infinite.

    Nothing more, nothing less, WAKE UP OPERATORS!

  52. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Take it to the small claims courts

    There can be no debate about a network's right to charge for use of services above the level agreed in a contract. Do the charges applied reflect the real cost of providing the service? It is perfectly reasonable to contest the fairness of such charges in a court. Is the network using the money collected to improve the network or is it merely profiteering? Does it make any attempt to inform the customer that they have reached a limit and will be incurring higher charges? Are they culpable of encouraging a customer to get into debt? The small claims court is the ideal place to clarify these matters once and for all given that the regulatory bodies are blatantly incompetent.

    My contract in Germany offers 250 MB for €10 per month with a known price per GB beyond that up to a limit of €25 per month which is the same as their flatrate. VoIP is clearly excluded from the contract which is a reasonable restriction for a phone company to apply. Anyone expecting consistently high data rates is likely to be disappointed but real data flat rates are the only way for networks to stimulate use of their very expensive networks. It might be worth noting that the courts in Germany regularly rule in favour of customers: children under 18 cannot be held legally responsible for bills (re. excessive charges for ringtones, etc.); money on pre-paid accounts may never be appropriated by the networks.

    Considering these confusing product names and descriptions and punitive tarriffs reminds me of something Michiel van Meijer once said: "Don't punish the customer". If the network were to charge say £1 for each additional GB beyond the limit then they would still be handsomely in profit, likely to continue to make money from the customer and wouldn't be getting bad press for profiteering.

  53. Anonymous Coward

    Two words: "Consumer Direct"...

    ...they're the regional callcentre advice wing of the DTI and/or Trading Standards, or so, and a great first point of contact, RATHER than trying to write to Ofcom/ASA/Small Claims Court/City Hall straightaway. They're great on consumer protection law, they won't cost you anything, and even sometimes go to court on your behalf (or get Trading Standards to). 08454 04 05 06 - or check for geographical numbers.

    As any Trading Standards Officer will tell you, the statutes which protect the consumer (and probably in this case), form implied contractual conditions (the most powerful contract terms) which it is almost impossible to 'contract out of' on an ordinary basis, and attempts at exclusion clauses to these conditions will ordinarily be invalid, even great shibboleths which are normally taken for granted by the population, e.g. 'one year guarantee [only]'.

    Oh, four other words: T-Mobile mobile data tariff. £7.50 per month for a gig, and modem use permitted. It's rarely one's moved to so praise a mobile telco, but for this alone they do kind of rock.

  54. gizmo
    Thumb Up

    @Adrian Waterworth

    Best response yet.

  55. Anonymous Coward

    @Adrian Waterworth

    "And that's coming from someone who worked in the IT game for 15 years or more and who has managed to run development teams, support outfits and even a couple of small companies without ever actually _needing_ to access the Internet/web/email/whatever on a mobile. Even when on holiday, abroad or travelling on business for any length of time."

    I suspect you have pointy hair. If you cannot see the value of mobile data then you are seriously behind the times. If you have never _needed_ to check your email remotely or urgently then I guess that nothing you ever did was particularly important.

  56. Mark McGuire

    Could go both ways

    The article is not clear whether the plan was advertised as an "unlimited plan". The phone companies, and internet providers (Comcast!!!) really like twisting words to grill consumers. Of course in advertising it is legal to say "Virtually (adj.)" because it's not actually (adj.), but it's "really close". The hidden crap like the hidden line Comcast has or the only use port 80 traffic is only out there to get the consumer. The average consumer has no idea what port 80 is. If they're downloading a file from the internet, it could be through FTP; how would they know that the ports differ or that there's even a switch?

    There's a big stink in the telecommunications industry and somebody's gotta clear out the rot.

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    @unlimited - vodafone do!

    Although their website may not say so now, Vodafone DID offer an unlimited contract on their 3g card. I know as i have the paperwork in my hand that clearly states my plan is 'unlimited' in it's name.

    If this guy has the word 'unlimited' anywhere on his paperwork then he should take this as far as it could go legally as Ofcom do not care, but there is enough contradiction to make it an unfair contract to charge so much for a measured amount of data, when its described as unlimited. The telcos may be using 1984 style contradictions ('freedom is slavery' etc) but a judge may see more sense.

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Get real...

    My girlfriend ended up with a 3k bill after 4 weeks, which by the end of 10 weeks was up at 7k. I can’t say she didn’t know what she was doing either; she’s a senior systems engineer, enterprise admin for a global corporation with 9 years experience, and prior to her current job helped set up an ISP (Wanadoo/FranceTelecom) . It took weeks of frantic calls, emails and use of insider friends in the provider before they admitted it was a horrid mistake on their side and she infact owed them next to nothing. At one point they were adamant she’d been connected and actively downloading for more minutes than was temporally possible! Yes, they were claiming in all seriousness that it was possible to have 28 hours in a day…

    Fact: Most providers billing systems are a mess. Their customer service is even worse, and even when it’s obvious they’ve ballzed up dramatically – they’ll still try to bully the poor punter into submission.

    I hate over-regulation as much as anyone, but this current mess is like the bad old days of 1000% per day loan sharks.

  59. EmperorFromage

    The end of GSM / UMTS

    The traditional wireless operators have been unable to get grip on sensibly charging for data usage. Granted it is a thorny problem, since bandwith is in fact limited, so the traditional all you can eat buffet is not an option. But it would't take a savant to come up with a workable alternative to what we have today. For instance, if I recieve a video call while roaming in Europe I now pay ordinary roaming fees for receiving such a call, but exorbitant data rates if I try to videocall home. Another example that goes to show that the priceing structure is fundamentally broken.

    The only alternative that the telcos have come up with is IMS which is an unashamed powergrab of the telcos. Layered on top on something similar to an unmetered data carrier, they have composed a gordic knot of protocols to maintain the same level of control, and ability to continue the absurd differentiatedl datarates. ( Different for SMS / MMS / video / data / voice etc. ) This technologu brings NOTHING of value to the customer, and is so complex that setting up a single voicecall requires over 120 control messages.

    This is why my crystal ball shows the end of GSM / UMTS. Any alternatove technology WiMax or similar that comes along, with somewhat flat rate, and reasonable roaming arrangements will beat IMS hands down, as long as it provides SIP acces at a cost lower than GSM / UMTS voice calls.

  60. Ben Norris


    I have a Vodafone contract and I HAVE been offered Unlimited Internet (120Mb allowance!) They have since dropped the unlimited and now use the similarly confusing phrase 'no daily limit'.

  61. Adrian Waterworth


    Sorry - wrong on both counts. System and software designer/developer with a number of years of experience under the belt. PhD in Fault-Tolerant and Real-Time systems, worked on kernel device drivers for the Telco division of Sun Microsystems, did the dot-com-bubble thing as System Architect for a B2B marketplace service provider, worked as a consultant software engineer/designer in the distributed systems (CORBA, J2EE) market and ended up doing various technical design and oversight things on large-scale contracts, such as the wonderful (NOT!) NHS care records system and various other major government and corporate IT outsourcing deals.

    And, you know what? By the simple expedient of having properly trained (and intelligent) staff members, clearly defined reporting/escalation structures and a reasonable amount of advance planning, I have managed to avoid the situation of having to access systems, check email, etc. on my phone. Wow! How's about that?

    On those occasions where something went sufficiently wrong that I needed to be contacted urgently, a simple phone call usually sufficed and I could ensure that someone would be able to deal with the problem. Or at least contain it long enough for me to get decent network access at home, at an office or via WiFi/VPN from my laptop in the hotel/station/airport/wherever.

    Believe me, if you think that you, or the things that you do, are _soooo_ desperately important that you simply must have 24/7 access to your email (or whatever) via your phone, you will ultimately feel severely short-changed when your employer or client decides to save a few bucks and outsources your job to someone else who doesn't do the 24/7 thing on their own, but does employ a few guys in India (or wherever) to monitor stuff for them.

    (Like all generalisations, I can think of possible exceptions to this. Although the only one that springs immediately to mind would be C&C support for the emergency services. And those should have properly manned data/control centres 24/7, so there should be no real need for some critical bod or other to be checking on email or systems via their mobile.)

    In my experience, people who think that they simply _must_ have 24/7 access to their systems or email like that are either spending too little on their service providers (or on employing additional staff) or are over-estimating their own importance...

    Of course, YMMV. That's just my experience from what I've seen in the various places I've worked.

  62. Lasse Saikkonen

    I pity the fool

    Every time I read about the excesses of UK telco's I cringe with sympathy. Fortunately I live in Finland and I have a 384kbps unlimited data UMTS connection on my phone which costs me a grand total of 10 euros/month no matter how much I use it.

    The funny thing is that the data connection only uses the free bandwidth of the base station that otherwise would be completely extraneous. If the base station gets congested during "rush hours" the data connections are the first to be throttled or cut altogether if it gets too bad. Then they dare to charge the customers like it was a premium service when in fact it is the exact opposite.

    It's free money as far as the telco's are concerned, since they have already allocated the cost of the infrastructure to the regular call and SMS prices. In their projections they probably had an allowance for a certain amount of idling in the infrastructure which is also reflected in the call prices. Now that there is more traffic and less idling, they actually get more that they originally projected from the same investment. That should naturally be reflected in the prices like they do in Finland.

    Since most of the telco's are also ISP's, the barely discernible increase in net traffic due to mobile internet is probably insignificant in their total net traffic, they really shouldn't be able to justify those prices in any shape or form. The public's ignorance is probably the only reason this kind of practice is allowed to go on.

    It's quite amazing that 5 million people spread in a very sparsely populated country with long distances have prices MUCH lower than in a supposedly technologically advanced one.

  63. Chad H.

    @ another point of sale problem

    you're shocked at carphone warehouse staff? When I worked at the big pink letter telephone co, the only time CPW shocked me was when they got it right! The number of missold blackberries coming out of that place is ridiculous.

  64. Chulang

    what the add says

    If it says unlimited then it unlimited and he should not be charge, even if the contract say unlimited for a set amount of band width. For example, it is wrong to say the Sun is an unlimited source of light and say then it willl go out in 50 million years, a contradiction. If any adds say unlimited , he should not pay. Get proof and a lawyer and deal with it.

  65. Anonymous Coward

    Always use pay as you go!

    Currently in a European country getting around 100mb a day for £4 a month.Port 80 proxy fills out limited service.Had no problems with Orange UK unlimited deals on pay and go either

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Oh me oh my

    The problem is nobody really cares - and yes, the people up here that approve of vodaphone's appalling behaviour; you're the biggest culprits in this problem.

    A while back (2 weeks or so ago), I went into GameStop to buy my kid a Nintendo DS. Nothing unusual there. They even had a nice deal: DS + 1 game of your choice for €164. My kids noticed, came back to me and got all hot under the collar the cost is a bit much, but workable if they put in some of their own savings; so hey it sounds good to me.

    Get to the counter, manager says "Oh, ah no; we don't have any of -that- stock left, we got a new shipment this morning so it's €160 for the console on it's own". You what?

    At this point, the shop knows you can't refuse without making a huge scene (they don't really know me, so they were in for a shock). I noticed several parents for days after though shelling out the extra to save the scene - and there is the reason it was still up.

    Did the sign say "while stocks last", or even similar? No.

    Did they take the sign down? No.

    Is the sign still up to this day, yet unhonored? Most likely, it was a few days ago.

    We all approve of this type of scam when we buckle down and accept things like "unlimited" (oh but it really means 20mb); or "Up to 3MB Broadband" which turns out to be 10K on a good day.

    If you REALLY want it to change, we need to start holding CEO's in the responsible company -directly- for this type of scam.

    To the punter, I say sue the CEO directly for false advertising, attempting mass fraud on the public, mail fraud (assuming they posted the bill to you), and throw in a bit of high treason for using the ROYAL MAIL to deliver his fraudulent bill to you (lets hope they still hang and quarter the bastards). Attach his assets too, if you get a good enough lawyer (and for that kind of payoff, you should be able to).

  67. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    This is ugly

    All plans, from all providers, from what I see in the comments above, suck. I live in the wild east (Romania) and I pay 20 euros a month for for 4GB, no restrictions of any kind within the first 4 GB, and 4 euros for each additional 500 MB. The connection is 3G in virtually every city with 50k or more people in it.

    I consider what I have severely restricted (I mean, traffic limitations? so 1995) I thought things were better in western Europe, but it doesn't sound like it

  68. Claire Rand

    recording & proof

    generally it doesn't matter what the sales droid told you, after all it will be your word v theirs, the solution is to record all calls. my understanding is that either party to a call can record it without giving notice - but a third party must give notice. I tend to find telling them you're recording it cuts the crap.

    ok so thats over the phone sorted but what about the sales pitch in the shop? well record that as well. and keep the evidence. if there is a problem go into another shop of the same chain as a 'new customer' and record that as well (avoids 'a one off mistake' excuses) when trying to resolve whatever scam/issue you have let them know you have done this, and will continue to do this, and when the probem ends up in court it will be presented.

    of course they won't go to court, just a debt agency and screw your credit record. if you have to sue them... for stress, 'admin' charges for your time anything but get them in court, sue them for the amount they say you owe them as an incorrect bill to cancel out what they say you owe.

    generally companies won't want the fuss, they *certainly* won't want a court looking at the 'limited/unlimited' issue and setting a precedent. the trick is to be able to prove what was actually said, and not what some policy document implies was said.

  69. Lasse Saikkonen

    I pity the fool

    Every time I read about the excesses of UK telco's I cringe with sympathy. Fortunately I live in Finland and I have a 384kbps unlimited data UMTS connection on my phone which costs me a grand total of 10 euros/month no matter how much I use it.

    The funny thing is that the data connection only uses the free bandwidth of the base station that otherwise would be completely extraneous. If the base station gets congested during "rush hours" the data connections are the first to be throttled or cut altogether if it gets too bad. Then they dare to charge the customers like it was a premium service when in fact it is the exact opposite.

    It's free money as far as the telco's are concerned, since they have already allocated the cost of the infrastructure to the regular call and SMS prices. In their projections they probably had an allowance for a certain amount of idling in the infrastructure which is also reflected in the call prices. Now that there is more traffic and less idling, they actually get more that they originally projected from the same investment. That should naturally be reflected in the prices like they do in Finland.

    Since most of the telco's are also ISP's, the barely discernible increase in net traffic due to mobile internet is probably insignificant in their total net traffic, they really shouldn't be able to justify those prices in any shape or form. The public's ignorance is probably the only reason this kind of practice is allowed to go on.

    It's quite amazing that 5 million people spread in a very sparsely populated country with long distances have prices MUCH lower than in a supposedly technologically advanced one.

  70. Michael

    NOT unlimited

    Everyone's is such a big hurry to grab their torch and pitchfork, that it seems they never bothered to read the article, which nowhere, I repeat, NOWHERE mentions anything about unlimited usage.

    From the article: "Ian signed up for a Vodafone Anytime 800 contract and added a £7.50 inclusive internet deal to let him use his phone for surfing the net."

    Nothing about being unlimited.

    After looking around for mobile internet, I came across this page:

    Which pretty clearly discusses the 120 MB limitation. It also says you revert to £1 per day if you go over the 120, but the £1 per day is also pretty clearly delineated as being for up to 15 MB per day. After that, it's not clear on the site what the charge is, but it's pretty clear it's not the same.

    This is a classic case where idiot doesn't read what he's signing, gets bitten in the ass for his stupidity, then wants sympathy for it. Do the telcos charge way too much for what costs them so little to provide? Absolutely, but this guy had the terms laid out in front of him, signed them, then ran up his bill. It's his own fault.

    It's not the telco's responsibility to make sure you read and understand the contract before you sign it -- that's YOUR job. It's not the telco's responsibility to actively monitor your usage and poke you when there might be an issue -- it's YOUR job to monitor your usage. It's not the telco's responsibility to hold your hand to make sure you don't cross the street in front of traffic -- it's YOUR job to open your eyes!

    Make the bloke pay.

  71. Paul Stimpson

    How much per meg?!!!

    I believe another problem with users misunderstanding what is allowed/included is the way many non-technical news publications refer to the whole Internet as "the web." Like when talking about illegal pron on filesharing networks and saying they will get this stuff "off the web." This probably leads to the average person thinking that a "web" tariff includes all the other protocols too.

    I just worked out that if I use all my cap allowance on my home broadband I pay 0.06p a meg. Last time I looked, my mobile phone provider was charging £1.80 a meg (yes... that's 3000 times the price I'm paying at home). Therefore would argue that since they are both retail prices I would be paying my mobile provider £1.7994 of each £1.80 I spend for them to deliver the data to me. I expect to pay a small premium for this service (I would be happy with double and might even go as far as ten times what I pay per meg at home) but 3000 times is clearly (insert expletive here) outrageous.

    Then there is the matter of the stingy limits on mobile packages. The only reason I limit data rates on networks I operate is if the networking technology or the links that feed it are unable to cope with more. The 3G networks have relatively few users now. If operators feel the need to limit bandwidth that severely in order to keep their networks running with few users then how the hell are they going to cope when we're all forced onto 3G? My conclusion from this is that 3G itself and/or the operators' distribution networks must probably suck. Yes, there is also the possibility that they are just thieving, arm-twisting *******s and want to charge us as much as possible for as little as possible.

    All my mobile devices are data capable but I don't use it. Not because I don't want to but because I'm scared of the size of the bill I could run up without warning (or the bill spammers and virus-infected email could run up.) There's no mechanism for my phone to give me a running total in money for my usage or for me to be sent a text message every so many pounds of spend. I would consider myself insane to put myself in a situation where I could be subject to penalties for quite minor over-usage that are so high. I will start using mobile data when for less than £50 ($100) fixed payment a month I can turn my laptop on and do whatever I would do with it at home without having to worry about how much data I'm shifting.

  72. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    Low Phone Usage

    I can afford to say "what a silly boy" to this iriot.

    At the beginning of December 2007 I was forced to stick my hand in my pocket to pay £20 for new PAYG for my Virgin Mobile phone. "So what's wrong with that?" I heard the audience ask.

    Simple fact is that I bought a Siemens S25 from my local Virgin Mobile store in August 2000. The day after that Virgin reduced the price of that sucker by £60, so I offered to take the phone back and demand a refund. Virgin Mobile said very sorry and gave me £60 on my mobile phone PAYG tariff to make up the difference.

    That £60 ran out 3 weeks ago. So I've used £60 of PAYG over 7.5 years, which is about 60p per month if my maths is about right. So my mobile phone usage is something like 2p per day on average. Not bad methinks.

    And in case anyone is interested the answer is no - I haven't been downloading movies using my PAYG contract.

  73. Anonymous Coward

    This is rape!

    Why do we worry about giving the cocaine monopoly to criminals if we give he cell phone monopoly to the small select group of white collar criminals?

    Do they meet at night and discuss price fixing? They don't have to. If the group is small enough, all rednecks and share the same mother, then their thinking is amazingly synchronous. Do you *really* think that the costs they have is commensurate with their charges for mobile data? If you did for a second, then why do Scandinavian providers provide *unlimited* access at a flat rate? They must be real dumb!!!! (or maybe didn't sleep with their mothers?).

  74. Mike Lovell

    Re: Vodafone suck!!!

    "I had a similar experience with Vodafone last month. Not quite as bad as what this gentleman did, but a £346.40 private bill really hurts! Especially just before Christmas!

    They (Vodafone) claim I used 108mb in the space of 30 minutes downloading mail from my mail server! I've produced logs proving I did not use that amount of data yet they are not prepared to do anything about it. At the time my phone only had 64mb worth of storage so downloading 108mb is physically impossible! Currently i've got no clue what more I can do! I've cancelled my direct debit, written letters, etc but still sit £280 out of hand because of this.

    Any advice?"

    Yes, they are probably right :o) ... Don't forget that the size of information you received isn't going to be the same as the amount of data transferred (you have to take into account the data being encapsulated, and of course most forms of mail transfer aren't very efficient).

    Mail attachments are much bigger than the original file as they're Base64 encoded. Your phone probably compresses this or stores it in a different format once the mail arrives (crazy to keep it in Base64).

    Your mobile probably has some hela-stupid ways of getting your mail.

  75. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And when he saw his bill..

    Did Mr Simpson, who ate all he could, say...... D'oh! ??

    Coat ? yes please

  76. John Parker


    I thought we weren't supposed to be using the term "mobe", according to the 10 Rules of El Reg Club.

  77. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mr Simpson is not so stupid

    All I can say is that the high bill is not the result of Mr Simpson's stupidity. If he can even get his mobile phone to act as a modem, he must have some technical intelligence. The reason why this is not a bigger story is that most people give up trying after a few failed attempts. And the business users (I work for UK civil service) who use vodafone plug in modems don't even see the bill, so vodafone are laughing. And yes, T-mobile are the fairest of a very bad bunch, but then reception and coverage is the worst. What a mess it all is. Happy new Year!

  78. Anonymous Coward

    unlimited internet access!!!

    the 120 meg allowance for £7.50 it doesnt say unlimited as far as i can see and thats for the internet using the handset NOT for using it as a modem i have no sympathy for this guy with the massive bill from the website

    Whether you’re a Pay as you talk or a Pay monthly customer you can start exploring the Mobile Internet straight away on our daily rate. This normally costs no more than £1 per day.

    If you browse just a few pages a day and use less than 0.5MB in the process, you only pay for those pages.

    Reading 5 pages of news on the BBC costs about 25p.

    Finding a restaurant on Google search costs about 20p.

    From 0.5MB all the way to 15MB, which is more than enough for most users, you pay £1 per day. This lets you:

    view 600 web pages in a day or

    download 15 minutes of video.

    If you’d like the freedom to browse without a daily limit, try our £7.50 Web browsing pack. It gives you a huge 120MB monthly allowance, which should let you view 1000’s of web pages, all your emails and loads of videos.

    Subscribe and get the first month free

    Get a massive 120MB per month

    Revert to the £1 daily rate if you go over your monthly limit

    and this also from there website

    You can connect your laptop or PDA to the internet on our day rate or web browser pack. You’ll use more of your MB allowance on a laptop than a phone – if you’re a laptop user take a look at our 3G Broadband Mobile Connect card. If you’re on our day rate and go over your MB allowance, you’ll be charged £2 for every extra MB you use. Subscribers to our data pack will revert to the £1 day rate until the end of that month.

    Neither our day rate nor monthly pack can be used for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services like Skype or Peer-to-Peer services (like instant messenger services, text messaging clients or file sharing). These services are charged separately at £2 per MB, with a 5p minimum charge for each data session.

    all the information is there online if the guy cant be bothered to go read it up or call first he has no sympathy from me just pay your bill and learn from your mistakes

  79. JimC


    If you set your operations up so you have to be contactable at all times you're running a pretty unprofessional setup (unless of course you're a sole trader, in which case you have to live with it). Illness? Accidents? No11 bus? There are loads of reasons why the organisation might have to suddenly do without you, so making sure it can run without you in scheduled absences is an obvious way of testing the systems work. Lets face it, being indispensible may be good for the ego, but its a damned unprofessional way of running a large organisation.

  80. Phil the Geek

    The large print giveth and the small print taketh away

    In an insufficiently regulated environment the marketing hyenas in the competing companies tend to have an arms race with each other, where they get more and more extreme in their re-interpretations of ethics and morality as they try to compete and win.

    I used to work for a computer manufacturer. We once introduced a new computer with a lifetime warranty. I was an engineer and I was appalled, I knew the computers wouldn't last a lifetime and that the financial implications for the company were horrendous. I had my error explained to me, the very small print defined "lifetime" as the useful lifetime of a computer, not a human being. Weasels.

  81. Dale Morgan

    Vodafone are theives

    Vodafone are the most expensive mobile phone network out there, when I worked in their account managment I saw how much they ripped people off, there were some very suspicious charges on customers bills that were immediatly refunded when customer rang up to complain, but how many were charged and how many complained?

  82. adam

    false advertising

    There is a nice Vodafone advert on a billboard in Manchester stating that you can access "any website you want for £7.50 a month". Not being funny, but I bet there's probably a website or two with more than 120mb of data on...

  83. rob

    It is common f**king sense

    It is fairly obvious... Using a mobile to make phone calls (what they are designed for) is stil expensive 20 years or so after their initial release, using a mobile as a modem to download tv shows and porn (I expect) is always going to cost a fortune if you exceed what you have signed for!

    The guy should go back, read his contract, then speak to Vodaphone about how they can come up with a mutually agreeable settlement.

    He signed, he is liable, QED.

  84. Danny Thompson

    @Adrian Waterworth

    Regardless of whether you can understand why anyone would want data via or on their mobile handset the fact is that some people do. It does not make them a lesser person for that reason. The future may [or may not] be mobile digital, but for some it either is or will be. Let it rest at that.

    The focus of this article and many of the comments is correctly on Vodafone's ability and willingness to drive one of its own customers into bankruptcy if needs be. That in itself is unacceptable by any measure.

    I do feel that if Vodafone have systems and services with the capability of allowing such a huge financial charge to be made, then these same systems should be quite capable of warning Vodafone's customers before the event. They should be capable of, if not capping, then at the very least making the customer aware that they are nearing the point of financial penalty, for that is what it is.

    If Vodafone, and the other mobile operators too, do not respond to reason then they should be regulated into providing the consumer protections that are clearly, in this case, completely absent.

    If I had my way Vodafone would be ordered to disable all mobile data access completely until it has implemented and demonstrated the ability to prevent any customer from exceeding their data allowance without being in receipt of prior warning. If the customer insists on using the data service after being warned then the ball can be well and truly in their lap and they can pay the consequences.

    Shame on Vodafone - they should write this invoice off immediately.

    Pirate symbol chosen because that is how Vodfone are behaving - pirates of the airwaves indeed!

  85. Andy Cunningham

    Rip-off data prices

    Why is every provider charging such ridiculous prices for data? It seems to me a fair price for 1MB of data should be similar to a 1MB of voice calls. Looks to me that mobiles compress voice calls to about 500KB / min, but you need to send to 2 mobiles, whereas data only goes to one.

    So without price gouging we should be able to get 25p / MB pay as you go - less on a contract. Instead my contract charges £3 / MB. Damn that's got to be profitable. I do out-of-hours support and occasionally use my mobile (work-provided) to connect up. This month I've moved house and had to use the mobile the whole month (BT / Sky finally got my new ADSL running today). My laptop has gradually managed to download nearly 100MB of windows updates that I haven't been able to cancel, and along with actual support usage I've used about 160MB of data - nearly £500 when the reasonable price should have been more like £40.

    Even with a sensible price this guy would probably have run up £2500. But 120MB fair-usage on an unlimited policy is ridiculous - the Windows .NET update this month was 74MB alone. Add in the other Windows updates, Firefox updates, Java updates etc. and you could hit the fair usage limit without actually using your connection!

  86. Kaiwai

    I would be asking

    Justify the amount - sure, I'd pay the amount, but I would demand that they justify the pricing - disclose to me the costs.

  87. Matt

    Not only the phone bill...

    I wonder were all those tv programmes he downloaded from a legitimate source?

  88. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bad marketing for Voda

    Voda have surely shot themselves in the foot, bigtime: who in their right mind would sign up for Voda data after hearing about this story? In the UK, we shop *on price*. The loss of potential new custom must heavily outweigh any gains made through acculturating customers to high charges.

  89. Tom Williams

    All this mobile data

    I *need* mobile data, and not for some ego trip. I move around a lot, and there is no way I can be signing up to a new DSL package or similar every 12 months - especially given the general trend in 18, 24 etc. month contracts that seems to be developing to get those 'bargain' packages.

    I've used GSM and GPRS data extensively, at one point having to contest £350/mth bills because they starting billing me for HSCSD calls I hadn't made. Up until last month I was making do with tunnelling my Internet connection through port 80 (alright, so you need a sympathetic machine somewhere to achieve this, but it isn't impossible if you have a friend with a regular broadband link) in order to get dialup-like speeds, for the £5/mth 'Unlimited GPRS WAP browsing' offer. Why this scam? the legitimate price plans were extortionate.

    Re: sales reps who have no idea, I had the guy on the phone explaining the contracts tell me they were so expensive because of the strain their use puts on the network. I thought packet data was invented to reduce the channel-sapping GSM data calls? He did also tell me that his telco's offers were plainly bad value for money though, so he was honest if not completely informed.

    Surely as the technology is improving with UMTS and HSDPA there will be more capacity for the average data user, and they should be encouraging us to use all this expensive kit they've had to purchase and install.

    I've just moved up to HSDPA with a CardBus data card, and in the city centre where I live now I regularly get 1.8Mbit/s downlink, great for fetching big e-mails, source code archives and the like. I don't download films and TV shows, I occasionally drag an MP3 or two off a torrent. I get 3GB a month transfers, and told to behave if I go over it. There is no danger of that right now (it is 100MB a day for the 30 day month, which is plenty for normal Internet use.) and I pay £25 a month for the privilege.

    This is at the top end of the 3G 'unlimited' packages, but 3 couldn't even set up an account properly for me (and it took a week of phone calls and trips to the shop to ascertain their mistakes) T-Mobile said I failed their credit check (having too many addresses in the last few years perhaps?!) and eventually it was slightly more expensive but dependable Orange who came up trumps having just come up with this actually half-way competitive price plan in the last month or so.

    Now the telcos are waking up and starting with these 'unlimited' plans, although their use of these fair usage policies to qualify that word seems to be opening up a can of worms like the guy in the article. I didn't even consider Vodafone when looking for the HSDPA upgrade - perhaps I've dodged a bullet.

  90. Adrian Waterworth

    @Danny Thompson

    You're right, I still don't see the point of mobile data - certainly not in its current form. But I never said (or intended to imply) that I felt anyone was "a lesser person" for wanting it. If I was being particularly misanthropic about it, I might think (or suggest) that anyone paying for mobile data packages at the moment either hasn't really thought about whether they really need it, whether it effectively meets a need that can't be met better (and more cheaply) in other ways or whether it is actually worth what you end up paying for it, but that's as far as I'd go.

    It was someone else who suggested that, because I didn't "see the value" of mobile data then I was behind the times, had pointy hair and had never done anything that was important enough to warrant needing mobile data. So I responded to that particular comment to show that it was pretty much wrong on all counts. As far as I can see, the main "value of mobile data" at the moment is that it allows the mobile operators to gouge and rip-off their customers.

    The things I then said about over-estimating self-importance, etc. were based on the many people whom I have met (and worked with) who have fallen into the "I need my mobile data/Blackberry/whatever 'cos I must be contactable 24/7 'cos there's only me can do it/I'm so important" trap. The sooner that people realise just how much of a fallacy that kind of thinking usually is, the happier (and more balanced) a life they will lead. (Ugh! Sorry. Slightly horrible sentence construction there, but I hope you see what I mean.)

    As for mobile operators, I wholeheartedly agree with you. My original comment (merits of mobile data aside) was also intended to highlight the fact that O2 had once tried to rip me off for GSM (WAP) data calls that I had never even made and that it then took a fair bit of shouting before I got them to admit that their network and billing systems had screwed up. Given that the mobile operators can (and do) pull stunts like that, is it any wonder that they will overcharge for any data service that they supply? They really do need a good kicking over this kind of thing and, even if our wonderful toothless regulator doesn't manage to do it, we can hope that the mobile-phone-buying public will eventually become savvy enough to do it themselves by voting with their feet (and wallets).

    And that's pretty much it from me really. I'm off to celebrate the imminent (well, in 30 hours or so) arrival of 2008. Happy New Year everybody!

    (Chose the pirate icon 'cos I wholeheartedly share that view on mobile phone operators.)

  91. Gordon

    They're all sharks.

    A couple of years ago I got an unholy bill from Orange - I checked and found that none of my inclusive minutes had been taken in consideration. When I called their CS dept they said that there had been a computer fault and this has happened to "thousands" of users, but they didn't intend to tell anyone who didn't notice (ie, they intended to keep the money, if possible). I'd caught them red-handed, so they offered to "credit" against a future bill, but I was about to leave the provider and i'd never use their "credit" up before I closed the account. Their wonderfull suggestion was that I sign up for another year, they price-match with my new provider. They didn't seem to "get" that I didn't want a stinkin' contract with them any more BECAUSE of this kind of continual cock-up & I wanted a handset they didn't offer. Eventually they admitted that they didn't actually have any mechanism for returning an excess charge - and somehow expected me to just accept this self-imposed impossibility as my hard luck. Eventually (after I threated to sue them) they did manage a refund cheque (so "this isn't possible" was another lie!) with much bad grace. And I haven't been back to them since.

  92. Alze

    Data is unlimited free for an nominal fee in .NL

    Christ, what are the mobile phone companies doing in the UK. I'm use to 'rip of britan' (hence now an expat) but 27K - why didnt they inform this guy, or is it just that easy to make money from someone stupid enough to download films via mobile.

    The irony of it is that in the Netherlands I pay a 30 euro fee and get CDMA/GSM unlimited data so its no problem to use my mobile as modem (just dont go over the border into Germany or Belgium as this can be done on the N95 maps and then watch bills roll in !!)

  93. Bob Allen

    three's definition of unlimited!!!

    Here is the terms and conditions from three, a bit long but read it. Now they are offering UNLIMITED Internet Max, yet the terms say's it's limited! Surely this is illigal regardsless of any fairusage terms. They should not use the word UNLIMITED!

    Add Internet Max

    Add Internet Unlimited - Gives you unlimited internet surfing powered by Yahoo! Search, so you can access mobile web sites and search the open internet directly from your 3 mobile. Subject to Fair Use Policy. Service limitations and terms apply.

    Fair Use Policy - X-Series

    To make the most of the X-Series from 3, we encourage you to use the services as much as you like. To help us meet our commitment to you and other customers, we also ask that you use the services fairly. Our take on fair use limits is set out below.

    Please remember that the X-Series services are for your personal use only and do not include using your mobile as a modem with your PC or laptop.

    A "month" is calculated from the start of each of your monthly billing periods. The following fair use limits are all separate and there is no double counting between them.

    Unlimited Data

    Fair Use Limit: 1 GB each month

    But this means the UNLIMITED data is limited!

    X-Series - 1 GB should be more than enough to allow you to surf websites, use ISP email and download podcasts

    X-Series Silver & Gold - 1 GB should be more than enough to allow you to surf websites, use Mobile Mail and download podcasts

    We will let you know by text message once you have reached the fair use limit and ask you to cease using the included data services for the remainder of the month. If you continue to use the services we may suspend your data usage until the next month. This will not impact your access to other X-Series services.

    Now what does UNLIMITED mean!!

    Source is Unabridged (v 1.1) - Cite This Source - Share This

    un•lim•it•ed ʌnˈlɪm ɪ tɪd - Show Spelled Pronunciation[uhn-lim-i-tid] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation


    1. not limited; unrestricted; unconfined: unlimited trade.

    2. boundless; infinite; vast: the unlimited skies.

    3. without any qualification or exception; unconditional.


    [Origin: 1400–50; late ME; see UN-1, LIMITED ]


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