“Bill Shock” – who is actually guilty of the fraud?

When you receive a bill that’s abnormally high the term often used is ‘bill shock’. The most common cause is when you have lost or had your phone stolen and whoever finds or stole it runs up the bill at your expense. But are UK network providers prepared to excuse these unplanned charges?

Tom usually spends around £50 a month with Vodafone but after his phone was stolen he received a bill for nearly £1000. When he received the bill-shock he found that he had no support from his network to investigate or minimize the impact. The culprit who stole Tom’s phone had run up the bill calling places like Spain and South Africa but his UK provider was holding him responsible for the calls.

Although Tom had never made calls to Spain or South Africa before his provider didn’t spot the abnormal activity on his mobile account. Sadly he’s just one mobile user successfully targeted by fraudsters.
In the past criminals have made their gains by simply selling stolen phones to someone else but often organized gangs set up premium rate phone lines – then they use stolen phones to call those premium numbers over and over again.

This new type of mobile phone fraud makes the criminals huge amounts of money and unlike the banking industry who take the financial hiding for fraudulent transactions on your bank card, mobile network providers are not actually legally liable.

Networks and phone companies claim they try to restrict the chances of customers receiving an abnormal bill. O2 and Vodafone confirmed they only bill for calls that are made before they’re informed of a loss or theft.
However, it becomes more of a problem when the loss or theft happens abroad.

Alice usually spends £40 a month with her network. Alice’s mobile phone and SIM card were stolen while she was on a break in a remote part of Thailand. She was unable to call her network and when she tried to make contact on-line their website was down and wouldn’t let her log in. Instead she used their web form.

When the network replied to her message they didn’t confirm that her phone had actually been stolen. She was told that they would replace the SIM card but she had to go to her local store to pick it up. Unfortunately for Alice the news was bad as the thieves went on to run up £2000 worth of calls and the charges had to be settled by her.

With a growing number of mobile phones being stolen, the networks and phone companies are under increasing pressure to manage so-called ‘bill shock’ – but given the highlighted cases above the chances of this happening anytime soon are unlikely.