/ Technology

Ask Which? – What can I do about my high mobile bill?

Woman reading bill looking shocked

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?


I think a lot of this is down to inaccurate billing by the mobile networks. My data usage is usually around 200MB to 400MB per month, but one month my Orange bill showed that I had used 916MB when my iPhone’s built-in data counter had recorded that I had used only 404.5MB (370MB downloaded and 34.5MB uploaded). Orange’s customer service system showed that I had downloaded large quantities of data during short daytime periods on two days in the billing month, which if true would have severely drained my battery, but it hadn’t done so because I didn’t use the data. Also there’s no way that my iPhone could have physically downloaded the alleged high quantity of data in the short periods stated. Fortunately I had not been roaming and I was just within the 1GB fair usage allowance so there was no cost or other implication. Nevertheless I asked Orange to investigate several times and made sure that copious notes were made on my account in case the same thing should happen in future more excessively or when I’m roaming, but they failed to investigate. Unfortunately many other customers end up significantly out of pocket when the same thing happens; I was one of the lucky ones. I’m sure the networks know all about these data billing errors but won’t admit it.

Catherine says:
4 January 2012

I have just realized that Orange have removed my Premier Service without informing me! I realized when attempting to contact customer service to report poor connection for all of November…still not resolved………..nearly four hours to various call centres still no resolution..promises of return calls to deal with complaint….nothing…..Oh apart from a text informing me they are going to charge me more for less!!!!!! Any good phone service out there?


Just to say that Catherine did a good job of helping the person mentioned in our Ask Which? get their money back from Orange. The £12,000 was written off, with added compensation!

‘I received a phone call from an Orange manager apologising, also once the £12,000 is taken off my bill he will arrange some compensation. I was offered £30 by a customer services adviser, but I turned it down explaining for the trouble I’ve been through it wasn’t good enough. That’s when it was passed onto a manager. Now I’m happy.’

Richard Owen says:
29 September 2012

I have been an Orange customer for 15 years. 5 years ago I became an Orange Business customer with 2 telephone lines. In that time my phone bills varied but never exceeded £150pm approx. Two months ago I added my wife and daughter to the account (so now 4 telephones) and we purchased 3 new iPhones – the first time any of us had used an iPhone. Within 30 days calls from my daughter’s and wife’s telephone had been blocked. I called Customer Services to find out why and they explained that a bill of £10,572.96 had been run up between the 2 accounts. I was terribly shocked and discussed with the representative how a bill of that size was possible. It was, of course, from data downloads. What had not been explained at the time of purchase was that to guarantee downloaded data only comes through a Wifi connection the button “cellular data” must be switched to “off” in “Network Settings” – we had been in an area where the Wifi signal was only intermittent and without our knowledge the phone was downloading data via the cellular network when the Wifi dropped out. Orange reduced the bill down to £600 ( £300 per handset) claiming this figure has been agreed by Ofcom, and while I have some gratitude for the reduction I cannot help but feel extremely hard done by.

Given my consistent spending pattern over 15 years, why is there nothing in place for a telephone company to block my calls (in the same way my Credit Card company block the card if they observe an out of the ordinary purchase) to warn me about a bill that is inconsistent with my usual pattern? The Orange representative I spoke to proffered the explanation that to block calls could impact on their business customers who were in the middle of a presentation that involved the downloading of data, and to do so could potentially impact on their business – yet when arriving at a figure of £10,572.96 they did indeed intervene. An arbitrary (and exorbitant) figure to say the least.

I asked Orange for details of where and when these data charges were incurred but they have not provided me with any information to date.

Could someone advise me if I have grounds on which to contest this £600 figure? I would also like to know if Ofcom have indeed set a figure of £300 per handset as a minimum charge for disputed bills.

Jillian Simon says:
19 October 2012

I need help with my bill shock £9400.56 from Orange for one month on my business iphone I have a 1GB monthly plan but I only ever use on average 400MB. They say last month I used 5.7.GB they gave me specific dates so I know what I was doing on these dates (working 12 hour shifts). They were not helpful on the phone, first call they said they would credit note me for £8996.00 but I said this must be an error as this means I still have to pay over £400.00. I went into the store they checked my phone and orange said they would give me a credit note so I only had to pay for the first £300.00. I told them there must be a fault somewhere and I would like it looked in to they said they wanterd me to agree to this credit note straight away, when I said I would need to discuss it with my business partner first they informed me the goodwill guester of a credit note had been withdrawn and I was responsible for my phone and the full bill. Needless to say I was upset in the orange shop and I haven’t been able to sleep since. Please help me


Hi Jillian, I’m very sorry to hear about your situation. I would start with Orange’s offical complaints procedure (http://www1.orange.co.uk/documents/about/Orange-complaints-code-20120322.pdf) which will hopefully get your a better result than in store. When you call up to complain, make a note of who you spoke to and what their response is in case things can’t be resolved straight away. The next stage will be writing a letter of complaint detailing the situation and if you still don’t get the right response you can take your case to CISAS who are an independent (and free!) service to resolve these issues. Please let us know how you get on and do get back in touch if the above does not work.


I got a large bill from Vodafone for high data usage. The bill states that i ended up using 40GB of data in a month! I dont understand how this can be possible when i only used the phone for emails.
Vodafone have done a recalculation of the bill and came up with no issues. I have contacted Ombudman services as well and even they’ve come back with a conclusion that this is my usage and i should pay the outstanding dues. I have constantly been asking for the details of data usage as to what exactly used so much data. But they have failed to give me a response for this.
I also asked for information on whether they can provide me the information about mobile phone masts that my phone must have linked to to get access to network, and all they came back with was that they’ve never been requested for this information before! I read the data retention directive which clearly states that the network provider should hold this information for 12 months!
I am not sure what i should do next. They have about £1100 worth of bill outstanding against my name. Does anyone have any advice for me?

Sabrina says:
9 April 2015

Hi, this exactly happened to me though they told me I used 11GB in 1 month and I got charged £231 for data usage from Vodafone when I clearly haven’t. How did you sort this problem out? Thanks