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Phone company to woman: You owe us $15 quadrillion

In a story that gives new meaning to the phrase "bill shock," a French carrier charges a customer a sum that would easily wipe out the European debt crisis.

It would have taken far more than this to satisfy Bouygues Telecom.
Flickr user Images_of_Money

Wow, suddenly that $1 billion cell phone bill I received last month doesn't seem so bad. I could have gotten a multi-quadrillion dollar bill, like poor Solenne San Jose recently did.

Yes, you read that right. San Jose, who lives in the Bordeaux region of France, received a cell phone bill late last month for 11,721,000,000,000,000 euros, or about $15 quadrillion. Lady likes to talk!

In all fairness, San Jose had been warned she would be charged a fee for terminating her contract with Bouygues Telecom early. She was not, however, told that fee would greatly exceed the GDP of France. (Or the entire world's economic output -- by a factor of 214, no less.)

As you've probably already guessed, the unwieldy bill was the result of an error by the carrier, though San Jose apparently had a hard time convincing Bouygues Telecom of that fact.

Operators at the company even reportedly told San Jose they couldn't change the computer-generated statement or stop the balance from being debited from her bank account.

"One operator told me: 'It's automatic, there is nothing I can do.' Another simply informed me that I would be contacted to set up a repayment plan of installments," San Jose told French newspaper Sud Ouest.

Thankfully, after some persistent phone calls from San Jose, the company finally conceded the bill should have added up to 117.21 euros (about $152 dollars). Bouygues Telecom told several news sources the mixup resulted from a printing error -- and subsequent confusion between San Jose and employees at the company's call center.

This isn't, of course, the first exorbitant cell phone bill we've heard of, though not all of them turned out to be mistakes.

Still, the takeaway here? If paying your cell phone bill could bail out the global economy --  and those of more than 200 other planets as well -- you might want to do some investigating.