Emma asks: I’m always worried about my phone usage, so every month I get a text saying I’m coming close to my data limit so I know to stop using data. Then, this month, I checked my usage online and was really shocked.
My bill had racked up to more than £12,000. Orange says I used 5GB of data.
I really don’t understand how this could happen, and how Orange could let this happen.
I’m waiting for Orange to contact me again, but I’m not expecting any change in the bill. I don’t know what to do.
Catherine West, our telecommunications expert, responds:
What a horrible case of ‘bill shock’, and sadly, you aren’t alone. Research by Ofcom this year showed that 6% of UK consumers received an unexpectedly high mobile phone bill over the past 12 months, with 18% of those people receiving a bill of over £100 more than expected.
As customers, we have to take some responsibility for keeping an eye on our usage, but I don’t think it should be possible to run up bills to this amount without intervention. Ofcom is looking into the issue of unexpectedly high bills at the moment and is due to release a statement in early 2012.
In the meantime, if you receive a bill for data usage that’s much higher than you were expecting, first look at the terms and conditions of your contract. See what it says about how much you can download, and if the costs charged for data above your limit are clear. You can also read Ofcom’s guide on what to do when you receive an unexpectedly high bill.
If you don’t think any of these things are clear (especially if you’re on a deal where ‘unlimited’ data usage has been advertised with restrictions hidden in the small print), it’s worth contacting your provider to complain and see if they are willing to cut the bill or, if this is not possible, allow you to spread the payments.
If you aren’t happy with the response from your mobile provider you can contact an independent Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme (PDF). There are two in telecoms – CISAS and the Communications Ombudsman Services – so you’ll need to find out which your provider belongs to.
Both have a number of powers, including asking the company to offer an apology or explanation or up to £5,000 in compensation.
The best of luck getting this sorted out, I hope you manage to find a resolution with Orange.
Have you ever had a bill that’s been unfathomably high? Does your mobile company always let you know when you’re getting close to your allowance, or could they be better at helping you manage your usage?