back to article Wife rings up £11,000 downloading bill

A wife inadvertently cost her husband £11,000 after downloading four episodes of US sitcom Friends using his laptop, according to the Telegraph newspaper. The chap flew to Germany where his machine connected to the local provider and continued the interrupted download - only this time on international data roaming rates. The …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Once I've seen bill at KCom for only ~£65,000. Some admin misconfigured the router so it connected once per minute using a modem. Imagine the length of the bill ;)

    And that was only for one month.

  2. Man Outraged
    IT Angle

    Contract Law

    If only people would challenge such payments... Contract Law can sometimes be useful if charges appear unfair or unreasonable. One of the tests for whether a contract is fair includes whether the contract allowed the company / business to impose undue financial burdens. When people sign up for a service that would typically cost £60/month, maybe £200 or more when abroad, but are hit with £11,000 bill they should seek legal advice. Other examples of unfair contracts are when hidden clauses bind the signatory - was your seemingly unlimited financial liability clearly stated? And when contract terms are not written in clear language.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Should have used Wifi

    ... Wifi roaming is dirt cheap, or even free, (but when they leave it open deliberately, they're usually a cap on it which makes downloading anything large slowwwww).

    But still, who would buy 3G and take the risk of an insane roaming bill?

    There's another risk in using 3G too, your PC logs in to networks which you personally don't have a contract with. You assume that you are allowed because it lets your computer connect, but you don't know.

    As the police in UK showed, using a network you know you don't have a contract with is a crime under the 1991 'only criminals use computers' act. You can't rely on that login to that network you didn't agree a contract with as proof of the right to login.

    Then there's the 3 strikes and you're out risk. Get 3 accusations of downloading and your ISP will cancel your connection....

    So just step away from the computer, and definitely don't touch 3G because companies like vodafone spend tens of billions on it and for that to work, they both have to lobby to kill open (free and competing) WiFi, and every so often force people to pay a few thousand quid.

  4. Jared Earle

    Roaming charges are stupid

    Phone operators should do it like the post offices: Don't charge for international roamers on your network and expect others to do the same. Log the calls and send them back to the contract owner to deal with.

    Is it that hard?

    Oh, wait, revenue from idiots. I forgot.

  5. bertie bassett

    WTH the IT Dept Playing at

    How did he install the software to allow the downloading? Whilst I've not used the Channel4 software I had a little play with the Beebs Iplayer last night and couldn't install without using admin the end I ditched it not liking the P2P and the DRM...

    Is it acceptable to use the work laptop to watch tv shows - Interesting question and I wonder what it says in the company's AUP. I guess if you're going travelling then a bit of friends in english might be more fun than the Bundesligia..

  6. Adam


    Why did she need to download it? It's on E4 all the time....ALL THE TIME!

  7. Andy Tyzack

    i dont think so

    Channel4OD would not allow you to download anything if it identifies your IP number as being outside of the uk, quite similiar to BBC's iPlayer.

    Anyone agree???

  8. Karl Lattimer


    to hear people actually still _want_ to watch "friends"

  9. dervheid
    Thumb Up

    More laughs...

    in this story than the ENTIRE friends saga, I'd imagine!

    The word "numpty" springs to mind. Didn't he even notice this happening. (Well, no, apparently)

    Question is, did his missus get to watch those episodes eventually?

    A salutory lesson in the perils of roaming-data charges (AKA highway robbery)

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't this prove......

    .......that women should not be allowed to use computers. Any man that allows a lady to do so deserves a hit in the pocket region.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re: i dont think so

    to get by the country IP address filter, he could've been connected to his company vpn and been downloading through that (?)

  12. Andrew Ducker
    IT Angle

    There's no reason for it to be that expensive

    Why should it be more expensive just because you're on another network?

    Answer - because business customers are the main users.

    It's all marketing nonsense, there's no technological reason for it at all.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    @Andy Tyzack

    And if the user was on a VPN to a home proxy?

  14. Anonymous Coward

    3G Packet Switched

    When roaming on 2G or 3G, packet switched data often routes back to the home network and then out to the internet. so it can look like you are still in the UK.

  15. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

    @Karl Lattimer

    I did once wonder what it would be like to have a rewind facility and find out what the jokes were before the canned laughter cut it off.

    But I am a little cerebral and require a moment to decide if something is funny. Decidedly slow analogue I know but...

    ...anyway. I never got around to it. Are they?

  16. Gavin McMenemy
    Paris Hilton

    Why didn't she have her own profile?

    This is the sort of thing that infuriates me. Why do people insist on everyone in the family using the same profile?

    Surely they get what they deserve for not using their bloody pc properly?

    Data roaming charges being obscene is one thing... another is not being able to use a laptop properly - or even appropriately.

    Why Paris? Because finding out other people are as stupid makes Paris cry (with relief).

  17. Alf

    The guy's missus will probably have to put up with this for a while...

    "OI! Put yer knickers on and make me a cup of tea!"

  18. John Latham

    My experiences

    Travelling from Ireland to the UK for a couple of days, I paused my online backup software (Carbonite) in Dublin airport before departure.

    First night in the UK, I hit the "standby" button as usual, shut the lid, and went to bed. Some shitty driver stopped the laptop from entering standby, and shortly afterwards Carbonite unpaused itself automatically (nice feature!), did a 450MB online backup overnight, and landed me with a €2k+ Vodafone bill.

    I squealed to Vodafone, they credited me back about €1700 or so.

    The pricing is absurd. If they charge €50 for the first 100MB, the next 100MB should be less than €50, not ten times that price.

    Unfortunately in Ireland, the alternatives are less appealing. 3's Irish network is port/protocol blocked to hell and overloaded due to silly giveaway pricing and undercapacity, and O2 are as bad as Vodafone for roaming charges.

    They are all as bad as each other, in different ways. You get the "choice" between shit, expensive, or both. Market forces haven't fixed this, so the regulator needs to step in and stop the gouging.


  19. Anonymous Coward

    I racked up a £1700 bill...

    ...for using 3G abroad, and only for downloading about 300Mb, god knows how.

    Interestingly enough, I got the bill written off by talking to them, basically threatening to leave them, and stating that I hadn't downloaded anywhere near the 1Gb usage limit, and not being aware of what caused the 300Mb to transfer, which is true.

    Didn't stop me getting fed some total bullshit about why they couldn't help me, something to do with T-Mobile Netherlands being a totally different company than T-Mobile UK - trying to force me into paying. How wrong they were.

    This doesn't stop 3G Roaming being a total and utter rip off and is in need of serious investigation by Ofcom and the EU in general. More so than these token actions from before which didn't seem to achieve anything.


    Every time I travel, I switch off data transfers on my phone. Natch.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @John Latham

    "They are all as bad as each other, in different ways. You get the "choice" between shit, expensive, or both. Market forces haven't fixed this..."

    I wonder why then, we keep hearing about how our cellular is so bad compared to your side of the pond.

    I'm actually quite happy with my phone and plan. My phone even works when I travel to europe. (But not Athens/Greece. Why T-Mobile hasn't partnered with someone in Greece yet escapes me.) Indeed, I don't like the fact that my phone is locked, but that can be fixed.

  21. JeffyPooh

    It doesn't have to be downloading TV shows...

    What if your OS decides that NOW is the time to download some massive collection of updates? I've certainly seen a few MS Update Tuesdays that were hundreds of megabytes. What if other software on your PC decides to update itself while you're on the road? There are so many programs installed that it would be difficult to ensure that they're all switched off. And many that you do switch off the auto-update function start to get quite naggy.

    One problem is that some 3G operators, and some of their stupid data plans, treat every bit as precious (i.e. expensive). Someone should write a mocking song to the tune of Monty Python's 'Every Sperm is Precious' and replace sperm with bit.

    Another problem is that the ability to control such behaviour is at best akward, and at worst almost impossible.

    Paying such an insane bill is not an option. It's a case where common sense should over-rule contract law.

    The worst thing that could happen would be to place "reasonable" limits on such bills, such as "only" one thousand Euros per month. Because then victims might actually be expected to pay the bills. Better to see stupidly insane bills so that the insanity is more clear to all.

  22. Killian


    "Why did she need to download it? It's on E4 all the time....ALL THE TIME!"

    Because despite the fact that virtually EVERY show is repeated several times a week on freeview, we're supposed to be watching all our content via the internet now - presumably there was too much spare bandwidth going to waste...

  23. Adam Reiniger


    Surely, with that kinda bill, she'd be expected to her knickers off whenever the husband wants, not put them back on?

    Choosing fire as symbol here, cause International Roaming needs to be burn in hell.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why was 4OD working?

    Why was the 4OD download working from a non-UK IP? Does that mean Euro-cousins can download without a TV licence?

  25. WarrenG

    Everything on your pc should be manually controlled...

    If you just leave it up to chance your begging for a kick in the arse. I've never had a problem with roaming charges because I simply won't use my 3g card when abroad. Having said that 11K is ridiculous and I hope these muppets will contest and refuse to pay, what a rip off!

  26. Anonymous Coward

    It can't have been 4oD

    Friends has never been available on that has it?

  27. Hollerith

    so if it has been his teenage son?

    If the man had given acces to his WORK laptop to his teenage son, and said son thought it was fine to download TV shows, and then Dad was caught by a big bill, does that prove all teenage boys should not be allowed to use computers? And that they should make the tea and give dad some unwilling sex?

    Just wondering why the OWNER of the laptop is not somehow wholly responsible.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Channel4 are not funded by the TV licence hence the annoying adverts.

  29. Kevin Gurney


    Just had our MD nip off for a months holiday, took his Blackberry (on Vodafone) with him and then put on his Out Of Office Assistant.

    Vodafone are charging him £10 per MB of Blackberry traffic while he's out of the UK so now he gets every spam email (and pays for it), his OoO replies to the spam (and he pays for it) and then the OoO replies bounce back to him (and pays for it) so I can't wait to see his Blackberry bill this month.

    I suggested that we stop forwarding his email but he wasn't keen in case he missed something important.

    Why the penguin ? Read in another set of comments yesterday that penguins don't do spam so I thought it might help !

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    No surprise

    Its a woman after all, Given a telephone and a credit card she could easily have spent £11000 on shoes alone, Bet she is gutted she only ordered 3 episodes of friends now.

    Paris as you just know she could easily spend £11k on some crap of equal value

    Mine is the kevlar lined jacket with my blood type printed on the pocket.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    RE: Kevin Gurney

    there was someone that roamed with his blackberry and due to the way the blackberry works, connecting to the network checking for email and then closing connection, the roaming network was rounding everything UP to for a small 5 sec connection that uses about 5 / 10kb it was rounding up to 1Mb, every min or whatever it does....that was a large phone bill ;)

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    He will get sacked now I bet sadly enough :(

    It was a work laptop (indicated by vodapain ringing is company) and his wife was downloading and using it, gee how many company laptops get laiden with non company software and spyware due to 3rd parties being allowed access to company laptops you wonder (awaits some jorno wanabe security peep to do a report and charge for it :).

    But 4od and the beeb service are cute and nice but when I tried the beeb one I was shocked at how much strain it placed upon my inet. Even when I stopped and deinstalled I was still taking incomming requests from around the world (mainly states - go figure lic payers heh), now I know P2P can be bad but this was horrendous volumes and from a 3 minute start and stop of the application resulting in hits days later, deinstalled never to be touched again. .torrents whilst get the same effect is never that bad and generaly after a hour your clean as incomming wise and thats after a long run.

    Sorry but what I've seen from it they might as well be labeled DDOS-ME applications from what I saw and now can be called - LET-MY-WIFE-CAN-ME given by definition he allowed her to install 3rd party software and misappropriate company resources, let alone the roaming rape.

    But I've seen companies do worse - like screw up your expenses so you cant pay your rent and other essentials whilst your the otherside of he World doing there business and then when you complain sack you for complaining. But hey we dont all work for Research In Motion - true RIM JOB bunch of cnuts.


    Paris because he was a fraggle who cried wolf

  33. Christos Georgiou
    Paris Hilton

    @Adam Reiniger

    She puts her knickers back *on* because, obviously, the rest of the day she *doesn't* wear them (due to the bill you already mentioned).

  34. Anonymous Coward

    Blame Vodafone for being the default connection

    The guy could possibly have used WIFI connection. For so many times, I've tried to use my phone to surf the net through my home wireless and then I could see the signal bar is flashing with 3G then I realised the phone has tried to connect the internet through the network, so I stopped it before it got connected, otherwise, it would have cost me a pound a day. Even I changed the setting to user define connection, sometimes it still connects automatically to the network when I try to browse the website.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Andy Tyzack

    I agree it would not let you mark it up, but the wife did it at home. anyway when roaming on a uk network would his traffic get sent back to the UK and hence still be on a uk network?

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I hate these heroes of the people. As they're normally heroes to idiots who crap on the people.

    Like the banking rubbish - all those inept retards who couldn't manage their bank accounts being able to get there money back meaning that now - o woopie I don't get charged £25 if I go unauthorised overdrawn (which doesn't happen because I'm not a retard) instead I need to pay 50p a day for using my authorised overdraft and 3% on money transfers and payments with a minimum charge of £3 - suffice to say I'm looking for a new bank now.

    And the result of not being able to charge retards who don't pay attention to their phone bills while abroad, our phone bills will all go up instead.

    Great - we really won there - the masses suffer so a handful of prats can continue being prats. Great. My happiness is over flowing.

  37. Anonymous Coward


    F*ck me. 11 grand!

    You can buy the entire bloody shoody 400-series run on DVD for about 150 quid!

    The false economy of downloading......

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Installed, (presumably) non-approved software on a company laptop.

    Allowed access to his personal account to a third party

    Used company internet access to download a shedload of data (must have been downloaded via VPN into the corporate network, then out again, as he was out of the UK and CH4 download doesn't work with non-UK IPs AFAIK)

    Used a highly expensive Vodafone connection to download the aforementioned shedload of data.

    Got found out and publicised all over the internet(?)

    It doesn't look good does it? Funny the bulid wasn't locked down though.

  39. Daniel B.
    Thumb Down

    Off while roaming

    IIRC, my Blackberry has a "Disabled while roaming" option for data, so you can avoid getting reamed by overpriced data roaming charges should you go overseas.

    Still, I think roaming charges should be cheaper.

  40. adnim

    Tragically amusing

    I do feel sorry for the guy. But..

    a) Should have never let anyone near a company machine.

    b) Should never let anything other than AV and a software firewall/VPN run in the background.

    c) Should have noticed.

    I use sysinternals' runs software on my windows machines every time I install something, I stop everything non essential from starting automatically. Iptables looks after the Linux boxes. Yes when it comes to PC hardware/software I am a control freak.

    I need an icon for an arse cos I can be so anal.

  41. Chris Miller

    Mobile IP

    Off topic, but the comments about overseas IP addresses reminded me about Mobile IP. The problem facing IP on a mobile phone is that you have to be able seamlessly to migrate from cell to cell, particularly when you're roaming and may be on the road or in a train. So you may be changing your subnet every few minutes, but need to retain a constant IP address on the Internet.

    This is achieved using a technique similar to NAT (except you're going from a public address to a public address), so the address you present to the Internet is your 'home' IP (probably in the UK if you have a UK contract). Your home address is actually a device on your providers network which can keep track of your true, physical IP address (known as the 'care of' address) and forward the packet to you, editing the source and destination addresses appropriately.

    Like NAT, this has the potential to break IPsec traffic, unless you're aware and take care when you configure it. Like most modern IP extensions, it's a kludge on a kludge, but it works - IPv6 will do all this stuff sooo much better!

    There's a good page on Wikipedia :)

    with links to the RTFs for those that like their IP down and dirty.

    OK, back to moaning about roaming costs - grrr

  42. Andy Tyzack

    all valid points

    these are all valid points, im not sure why vodafone dont detect such a high usage in such a short space of time, its utter crap that their billing system doesnt detect this quick enough, its all about making money.

    In a word, avoid using data abroad until the eu get their nose into it.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I suspect for those of you still wondering, that she downloaded episodes from Series 3 of Friends which can be found on the iTunes TV download library.

  44. Anonymous Coward

    Why, Why, Why...

    Apart from the issue of obscene roaming costs why don't you guys realise that the guy is using the excuse that "my ignorant wifey dun it" to get out of paying what he should have known about.

    Sometimes wives know more about technology than their supposedly techno-savvy partners but the techno-deficient partners know that business (insurance companies) don't believe this.

    Was wifey even included on his trip? Is he, himself, a "Friends" afficionado? Did he have a "friend" with him instead of wifey?

    And if wifey was left alone to get so bored that downloading episodes of "Friends" was a reasonable alternative to going out and enjoying the local pastis then he deserves to pay the bill!!

    Stop because you have all missed the point! He's an idiot and roaming costs are ridiculous...

  45. Anonymous Coward

    Re: man

    You mean like me and my Wife, who were told our overdraft limit had been extended by £500.00, which we then used £100, knowing £200 was going in to the account later in the month. We got a letter a month later saying "you have been charged £150.00 in fees for an unautorised overdraft", because the person in the bank didn't do what he said he would?

    We went in to the bank to complain, they denied all knolage and told us we should have checked, which we thought we had, when we asked the member of staff to extend our overdraft. Please explaine how that is my fault? And how exactly that cost the bank £150.00?

  46. Nano nano

    Reg dictionary ...

    "... at a remarkably fortuitous time for the EU ..."

    "fortuitous" - happening by chance [Chambers]

    Perhaps you meant "lucky" ?

  47. felix
    Dead Vulture

    4oD Not available outside UK

    As a british expat in the Netherlands I was annoyed to find that 4oD doesnt work from non uk ips. Proxying didnt help either - stingy bastards. Same for BBC iPlayer which makes the TV ads for it that are played here all the more galling. Oh well, at least there's bittorrent :)

  48. dumdum

    roaming is a uk ip

    I checked the ip from my blackberry (t-mobile) and it resolves to waterlooville UK (I'm sitting in Zurich). That cost me a tenner :/

  49. Zaid

    I got hit with £2300 bill for less than 15 days usage with 02

    My total download was 750 MB (less than one episode of friends!!!) and they charged 3 pounds per MB. The website was for o2 has a max charge of one pound per day but they said i was on the "old plan" , when i asked why they did not change to me to the new plan they said " we did not want to disturbe costumers"!!!!!

    I am still disputing the bill !

  50. Anonymous Coward


    ..Enough of...

  51. steogede

    Extortionists detecting fraud

    >> £11,000 that Vodafone contacted the chap's company to ask about potential fraud.

    The idea of a mobile data provider looking for fraudulent use seems a bit like using pots to detect black kettles.

  52. Rune S

    Well get a roaming sim then..

    Data roaming is immensely expensive.. but there are dedicated mobile roaming sim cards available. you can compare mobile roaming rates and find a sim card that works for your needs on

    Its fun to see that despite the eurotariff which was put in place in July, you can still save money on a dedicated roaming sim, especially on text messaging.

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