back to article Holidaymaker gets £31k data roaming bill

Another jet-setting TV addict has fallen foul of unreasonable roaming fees, this time to the tune of £31,500, just to get their TV fix - just as the EU considers how best to curtail the operators' roaming rates. The chap concerned was on holiday in Portugal when he decided to forgo the local sights and download an episode of …


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  1. Jamie

    It is wireless broadband

    If you are actually interested in Prison Break, and download using a mobile internet access to do such then you deserve the high bill.

    If you are given a quote for a specific value and they change without notice then yes they should be liable. If you are just to stupid to read your contract then you deserver to be bent over and violated.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    cap it

    I travel to mainland europe alot and i need to use my vodafone dongle while away.

    So far vodafone have been very good with a fixed price while abroad (more than at home) but still a fixed price per day (up to 50mb).

    Having said that, EVERY time i travel i phone vodafone first and check with them the cost and the limitations, that way i know and they have on record what they told me.

  3. Mark Browell

    Let's spin it another way

    How about: Personal Responsibility

    Some people need to grow up, get a spine, and accept the consequences. "Hey, look mum, I'm watching telly in Portugal on my mobile. What's that? It's going to cost me more than £2.30? Shorely Shum Mishtake."

  4. Fihart

    More Evidence Against Mobile Industry

    UK phone companies are long overdue for investigation. They exist via confusion marketing, vastly overpriced call costs -- and a ludicrously outdated link between hardware provision and service provision that defies all concepts of anti-trust legislation (and tempts users with new phones for "free" so that they discard perfectly usable handsets).

    Roaming charges are a blatant refusal by these companies to to accept the single european market -- and they deserve to be fined daily until they cease breaching the law or cease trading.

  5. Michael Miller

    Am I the only one?

    That thinks £229 is still a insane price?

  6. Tim

    Are people still this thick?

    It's hardly news that roaming is expensive these days. Data is expensive, so put the two together and you have an idiot who clearly doesn't think enough to wonder what will happen when he goes abroad and behaves like a right saddo!

    I like to think of these things as a stupidity tax!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    What a fool!

    An IT Pro yet he doesn't know about roaming and the higher charges?

    He should have been made to pay! He used the service, he should pay the costs.

    What next? Heading through customs with 40 million cigarettes in your suitcase then kick up a fuss cause "no one" told you that you would have customs charges or you had a limit of how much your allowed to bring back? Surely the UK Customs have a "duty of care" over the people of UK and would surely need to tell us at point of sale of the ciggaretts what we can bring back etc. No one told me. Stamps feet. Squeel. Shout. Stamps feet more!! "Oh okay Sir, on you go, sorry customs stopped you".


  8. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    France ain't cheap either

    I just got back from holiday in France and I can tell you it costs £5 per Mb on SFR (I'm with Vodafone). Stupid companies seem to think they have a right to gouge other networks customers.

    While I can understand that roaming adds SOME cost, not that much.

    I pay £7.50 in the UK for up to 500Mb per month.

    The sooner the EU stomps on these companies the better.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    £31,500 is clearly a completely bonkers amount to be paying (I wonder how THAT figure compares to getting data down from the Hubble Space Telescope)

    But £229 is ALSO a completely bonkers amount too! Common sense says that he SHOULD have been charged, say, £20? At most? And even that seems a silly price.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Bad TV

    That will teach him for watching a crap tv program.

  11. mike

    what a chump

    I mean seriously - how stupid can people actually be - clearly very! I understand that roaming charges for data are over priced at best, but I would have thought that this subject has been covered so many times in the press, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who had the ability to setup a mobile data source on their computer and didn't know the implications of data roaming...

    Clearly I'm wrong...

  12. Andrew Wood

    Total Idiot

    So his defence was he wanted to illegaly download some broadcast TV ?

    I hope Fox sue him for illegal downloading too.

  13. Damian Skeeles

    Stupid operators

    Why should any operator NOT have a cap on a standard data package? How many people are deliberately going to run up a 30k bill?

    Even if no-one's quite stupid enough to download huge video files, the fact is that anyone can run up a bill at £10 a second with a good HSDPA connection. How much control do you have over what your laptop is doing these days; Automatic Windows Update, anybody? Acrobat Updater? They download first, ask questions later.

    This pricing was first devised for 9.6kbps GSM CSD connections, and is unchanged for HSDPA running at up to 7.2MBps. Not implementing some kind of cap in these circumstances is grossly irresponsible of the operators. I hope the EU takes them to the cleaners.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    The cap

    The price should be capped at what it would cost to hire a guy from the UK to download the data and take a flight out to you with it on a DVD (gold plated of course, and on a silver platter). Throw in reasonable amounts of luxury accommodation and generous expenses for him, together with ample booze, girls, lethal skunk supplies, etc. and you'd still be quids in compared with using Vodafone. I dare say you could even afford to have him bring a nice curry and crate of beer along to help you enjoy the movie. Perhaps even a few of your mates from home could make the trip as well - in a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce, naturally.

  15. Chris

    Try Vodafone Ireland's normal data rate

    They currently charge 2c per kb!

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Idiot - deserved what he got

    Fair or unfair, it's largely irrelevant. EVERYone knows it's more expensive to use your mobile abroad and to figure out what your charges are.

    I'm willing to put money on the fact that he used a torrent to get it and probably left it uploading as well.

  17. Alexis Vallance


    What's all this 'he should have read and understood his contract' talk?

    A contract is not some sort of 11th Commandment and utterly binding, whatever it says on it. A figure so high goes beyond fair and unreasonable and starts to become a punative penalty charge, which is unenforceable in contract law.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    What I don't understand

    is how the company concerned can afford to write off the bill of over £31K and only charge £229? Surely they have to pay a roaming company for using all that data? Either someone is making a HUGE amount of money or I'm missing something

  19. Pawel
    Black Helicopters


    Why didn't that idiot look for a hot spot, or simply go to some kind of internet caffee...

  20. JohnG


    "UK phone companies are long overdue ...."

    The UK operators are relatively enlightened compared to some of their continental equivalents. For example, the prices in Germany are higher and the contracts automatically renew for one year if you fail to give three months written notice of termination. I would be chuffed to have the same prices and conditions offered by the UK operators.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    to those complaining of stupidity and laziness...

    ...I presume all of you read every line of the EULA fine print in every software product you use? Because, you know, if you got sued for a hundred grand because you missed something in the fine print, you'd just be a stupi lazy moron who deserved to be bent over.

    But I'm sure you guys read every last character of it, right? Hmm?

  22. Anonymous Coward

    About time?

    What is Ofcom up to?

    Is Ofcom earning its public sheckles?

    What telcos are losing lots and lots of money?

  23. JC

    @ 229 insane price

    yes 229 is outrageous, but 31k is just a joke. F'em

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Set a download limit?

    Surely it would be better to just set a cap on how much you want to spend, when you reach it it wont let you download anymore. This should be set at some default amount like £100 and you have to call to change it. No doubt telecom firms will not like as screwing people is the name of their game.

  25. Andrew Stone

    Text message equivalent

    No one seems to have mentioned that text messages are even more ridiculously priced:

  26. Filippo Silver badge


    2c per kb is 20€ per megabyte. At that rate, to download the typical half-gig divx movie, you'd spend 10000€. Even a movie that has been specially compressed for a cellphone-sized display would still cost hundreds. Just click on a page that has big images, and your pre-paid will be drained before you can hit 'stop'. Checking your email? Better hope noone sent you cute lolcats.

    Let's face it, data tariffs (without purchasing a bundle) are utterly and totally insane, either roaming or at home. That's why I never, ever, use my mobile to surf the web. I wouldn't use it enough to justify the cost of a bundle, and I can't risk clicking on a google search result and accidentally spending 40€.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Prison Break - yeah right more xxx

    these are ridiculous costs and yes the person was a bit of an idiot for not knowing there would some large costs associated with it.

    Perhaps they should ask how he paid for a copy of prison break too!!

  28. Tim

    Buy the DVD?

    He could of bought the whole series and loads of CDs for £229, and CDs and DVDs cheaper in europe too.

  29. Mark

    Re: Set a download limit?

    How about saying how much you will guarantee? And if the pipe is saturated on your segment or downstream to the edge of the ISP (I.e. all the ISP's network you're using) for an hour, you get credit at double-bubble. A connection you can't have more than 50% of the time is not a connection.

    If that means they have to advertise slower speeds, then we'll have slower speeds. But they can't go willy-waving about the size of their pipes if they can't be used.

  30. Mark

    I haven't yet had a coffee

    Hence, though I knew this was about mobile phone downloads, by the time I'd gotten to the end of the comments, I'd forgotten.

  31. Robert Harrison


    So you're on holiday, taking a break from the rat race and absorbing some of the local culture[1] and you decide, in all the wealth of things to do... to watch TV. And are willing to pay £229 to do so. "A fool and his money.." and so on. Who goes on holiday to watch the goggle box? Flames icon, 'cos no doubt somebody does.

    [1] Just the one *hic*

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You see, that's exactly what's wrong with the world...

    People go on holiday to a foreign country, and want to watch naff TV? They can do that at home for (almost) free and pay for me to go on their holiday, if shows like that mean so much to them.

  33. Mark

    Re: What a fool!

    OK, so this person should pay the costs.

    It didn't cost £31,000 to move that data, maybe £10. Add £25 for the letters and admin and they owe £35.

  34. David Shepherd

    @What I don't understand

    >is how the company concerned can afford to write off the bill of over £31K and only charge

    >£229? Surely they have to pay a roaming company for using all that data? Either someone

    >is making a HUGE amount of money or I'm missing something

    I think what you are missing is that the cost of the roaming that Vodafone (UK) will have come from Vodafone (Portugal) so probably that enabled Vodafone to reduce the cost (presumably to what it would have been in UK on an non-bundled rate) as all the costs were within the same family of companies - certainly when I was in Portugal earlier in the year my Vodafone SIM connected to Vodafone Portugal whenever possible. I suspect things would have been more complicated if he'd been somewhere where roaming was via a non-Vodafone company!

  35. Dave

    What a idiot...

    I'm waiting for him to get sued for downloading Prison Break...then Vodafone get sued for letting him download Prison Break...then Yes Telecom get sued for letting him download Prison Break

  36. druck Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    How much

    Its not always easy to find out how much the data tariff is before going. Last time I took the laptop over to Europe I checked on the website and it mentioned "up to £12.50 per MB" so I phoned the enquires number to ask what they exact rate for France was, they couldn't tell me, I'd have to get in touch which ever network I was connected to. They couldn't even say for their recommended choice of SFR, bloody useless. At least they've now put up the exact cost of £5/MB on the website.

  37. Kevin Gurney
    Thumb Down

    Vodafone Blackberry

    Vodafones Blackberry tariff has a data charge of £10 per mb whilst out of the UK so those spam emails really start to get expensive........

  38. Galaxy Bob

    Theft anyone?

    £31k might seem like small change once people like RIAA, MPA, etc.. get their hands on him. Illegal downloads are the crime du jour at the moment. If he's a serial illegal downloader and he's not exactly hiding his ID, then he might wish he paid the £31k and left it well alone!

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    3 mobile broadband abroad

    I understood that the costs and conditions of using 3's mobile broadband service in countries such as Italy and Ireland where they have an infrastructure were identical to those you sign to in the UK, and you were treated as if you had never left the UK. Has this changed?

  40. Chris Comley

    Wrong Target

    It doesn't matter who bills whom for what.

    The point is if I usually spend £50 a month, I would *expect* a warning call from my supplier when my bill goes over, say, £250, or £500, after all, they know my number! Credit card companies shut down your card after ONE "unusual" transaction. A simple ruling - if the company don't attempt to contact the user when the bill exceeds (say) 5x its normal spend, then the customer isn't liable. He may not realise the charge levels, the phone may have been stolen, or like so many lousy phone designs, it may have been "pocket-activated".

  41. Anonymous Coward

    @ Insane Price

    For all those complaining about insane pricing, remember that 3 have to cover the cost of this with the foreign operator; it's likely that they will lose thousands whle this wanker gets off with a token £229 charge.

  42. night troll

    @ Set a download limit?

    My network (T-mobile, sad I know but it works for me) has a monthly credit limit on its pay monthly accounts, but afaik they don't tell you unless you ask. I only found out when I put extra phones on the account. Mind you when they told me what my limit was I had to get them to lower it, something like 6 x my usual monthly bill.

  43. Anonymous Coward

    @Mark Browell - Bang on the money!

    Exactly what I was thinking!!!

    "Oh boo hoo, I did something wrong, wasted a lot of money and now I want someone else to take the responsibility for it."

    Three things I believe in, above all else:

    1. If it looks too good to be true, it is! ( No, not probably is, IT IS! )

    2. Life's guarantees two things: Taxes and Death!

    3. Never underestimate the ingenuity of a fool.

    I think these actually cover this story quite well!

  44. Simon
    Thumb Up

    Idiot - deserved what he got +1

    The bottom line is, if you take out a contract with any! company you make sure you understand the pricing regardless! of whether its extorsionate or not, this guy clearly did't which is NOT the networks fault people have to take resposiblity for there own stupity, I would.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    why theft?

    Why are you all assuming he stole it? If you pay for a subscription to a service such as SKY, you have the ability to download TV programmes at a later date. The same applies to Virgin......

    Just a thought...

  46. Anonymous Coward

    A possibility?

    Maybe the daft bugger was connecting to a slingbox for TV and using iTunes for his music. The article doesn't say whether he used legal or illegal download sources. What it does say is that Vodafone can write off over 30k of charges when they make the headlines. Makes you wonder how much they are overcharging people who don't run up newsworthy bills.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    read the small print

    To everyone asking themselves if £229 is a bit steep... yes, it's a complete rip off. Even the £35 suggested above is excessive given the lack of costs incurred to automatically forward an electronic signal but I would stomach it for important communications (perhaps covering a full month abroad, unlimited or continuous access). The only significant costs are the "connect - to - provider" charges which, for IP phones, rarely amounts to more than a fraction of a penny and for even the most draconian telephone operator is still in the 1-10p range (2-20cents, ah, hold on - 19cents,.... errr 18 cents ... ). But I can't help but laugh that this prat felt the need to watch such insipid British telly whilst on holiday.

  48. Phil Parker

    Hwo do you know ?

    Ever tried to contact a mobile provider to ask how much the data price is for foreign usage ? You might as well ask them in Chinese 'cos they never seem to know.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    International charges...

    Is everyone aware that it can take up to 6 months for any international calls and data usage to appear on your bill?

    All the talk of having a set lever say £100 for the bill and restrict the service or contact the customer may not work.

    Worst case would be he tans the arse off his data usage overseas, comes back to the UK, then the network get the details of what he's been doing.

    I suspect he's probably downloaded a few albums and a few prison breaks. So thats at least say 5gigs of data? Roughly 5120MB @ £7.50 per MB = £38,400 so it would be correct charges and really he should have paid it!

    If this sort of thing keeps happening ultimately the charges would then be passed on to us!

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @3 mobile broadband abroad

    No this has not changed, it also applys to any bundled minutes/texts as well (and voicemail is also free in the locations they have "sister" networks).

    Relevent information is found here:

    Least one network does it correctly (the main reason I use them as i have to travel to 4 of the 7 locations on a semi regular basis)

  51. This post has been deleted by its author

  52. Thomas Silver badge


    "A figure so high goes beyond fair and unreasonable and starts to become a punative penalty charge, which is unenforceable in contract law."

    Punitive penalty charges are related to breaches of contract - i.e. you can't say "you will give me your pencil, or if you fail to do so, you will owe me £38,000". There is a long-standing principle that courts won't apply any sort of 'value' test to contracts. The only validity check they'll do on payments is to query whether the contract seeks to exchange the sort of thing that contracts may concern.

    If it was otherwise then the courts would effectively act to prevent people getting bargains, and some very specialist forms of contract such as futures and forwards might become unenforceable.

    Concerning the actual article, this man is clearly an idiot since if he'd applied any intelligence whatsoever then he should have been able to deduce the probability of high costs given the knowledge he must have acquired through his profession.

  53. Fihart

    @anonymous coward

    "If this sort of thing keeps happening ultimately the charges would then be passed on to us!"

    As the charges they tried to collect are clearly based on fictional costs -- it's hard to see how their non-payment would be passed on to us.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "validity check ... on payments"

    "The only validity check they'll do on payments is to query whether the contract seeks to exchange the sort of thing that contracts may concern."

    Maybe you haven't noticed, but for the last year or two the UK High Street banks have been refunding excessive penalty charges for overdrawn accounts, simply because the banks were scared that the courts would tell them to stop excessive/penal charges if a test case went to court and set the wrong (for the banks) precedent.

    The banks finally plucked up the courage to take a test case to court, and the verdict on whether the charges were penal (and thus unenforceable under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations) is due Real Soon Now.

    £31K sounds unenforceable too, regardless of whether the bloke's a prat.

    Incidentally, if text message can be delivered within minutes between cooperating networks, why does it (allegedly) take days weeks or months for billing info to be forwarded when you're roaming?

  55. Michael Wood
    Thumb Down

    The worst thing is

    Vodafone will NOT put a limit on your GPRS charges. Having received a bill that had £70 of data on it myself, I called them and asked them to put a limit of £100 on it, as it was complete accident that my bill had rocketed to £150 when it was normally around £70-80.

    They preceeded to tell me they were not able to do this as data often takes a while to appear on the bill. I said well thats fine, but the minute you see it go anywhere near £100 I want a phone call. Again they just said they couldn't put a bar on it.

    I remember when I first got a phone call my bill went over £100 and I got a phone call. It is for there own protection...its the reason you get credit limits on credit cards, you want to make sure the user can actually pay the bill.

    Clearly these roaming data charges are just so lucrative for them they remove the option to put a limit on it....

  56. Human Writes

    Roaming Bill Data (Yawn!)

    "Incidentally, if text message can be delivered within minutes between cooperating networks, why does it (allegedly) take days weeks or months for billing info to be forwarded when you're roaming?"

    Depends on the terms of the contract between the network in the UK and the foreign network. Roaming billing data is usually batch processed, if the foreign network have a contract that says they'll send billing data to the UK once a fortnight, then by the time they get the data to the UK network for them to analyse it for suspicious usage the damage is usually done.

    Very little realtime billing data is exchanged by mobile network operators when your roaming, it's the reason mobile fraud prevention systems don't tend to pick up on suspicious usage or excessive usage whilst your abroad, it's also the reason most networks tend to include a term in your contract about late billing as mentioned earlier.

  57. Chad H.
    Thumb Down

    come on!

    how many stories in the media is it going to take before we can throw away the "I didnt know" defense? Noones ever specifically told me I'm not allowed to kill folk... Would love to see that fly in court.

  58. Roger Heathcote

    @Mark Browell

    Yeah, hows about corporate responsibility? They could easily do like the credit card companies do and put a block on when your spending looks out of character, or not enable this facility until they have spoken to the customer over the phone to make damn sure they know the costs involved.

    Service providers marketing material deliberately gives you the impression you can live the free and easy digital life, downloading videos on the beach all day etc so they must hold some of the responsibility when people actually try to do this. It may seem silly to us here but we're technical people and until the difference between Bytes, Megabytes and Gigabytes is on the national curriculum then service providers should make sure they labour the point that 3G, and roaming 3G in particular, is very very expensive.

    Roger Heathcote

  59. Ian Johnston Silver badge


    2c/MB? Amateurs. 3 charges 10p/MB if you exceed your allowance. That's why I'm with T-Mobile ... they may slow you down, or write you a rude email, but you never pay more than your standard monthly rate.

    In the UK that is. I wouldn't even think about using it abroad.

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