British teen racks up a £4,000 phone bill while roaming

Kate Snook from Bristol claims Orange is extorting her 14-year-old daughter Casey by not budging on the bill.

Joe Svetlik Reporter
Joe has been writing about consumer tech for nearly seven years now, but his liking for all things shiny goes back to the Gameboy he received aged eight (and that he still plays on at family gatherings, much to the annoyance of his parents). His pride and joy is an Infocus projector, whose 80-inch picture elevates movie nights to a whole new level.
Joe Svetlik
3 min read

Here's just what you don't need when you get back from holiday: a phone bill for a whopping £3,800.

But that's how much Casey Snook, a 14-year-old from Bristol, ran up during a trip to New York, the Metro reports. Casey didn't know that her Facebook status updates were costing her -- or rather her father, who pays the bill -- a fortune. The family only found out when her dad's bank account became overdrawn. And now, they're pretty upset, understandably. (Upset enough to make it onto this site, I'd wager.)

Orange says it sent Casey a text telling her she'd gone over her data limit, and that her bill had gone up from the usual £50 to £320. It then stopped her from making calls or sending texts, but didn't block her data roaming. Which meant she could still access Facebook.

The network claims customers must text a separate opt-out number to ask for the cap to be lifted, which Casey denies doing. Her mum Kate claims Orange is extorting them.

"Once [Casey] had reached the limit of their data bundle, the customer actively opted out of our roaming data cap so that they could continue to use data, effectively removing the inbuilt protection from large data roaming bills," the company said in a statement.

"I wouldn't understand what a data cap was and I don't think a lot of teenagers would," Kate said. "This is extortion of a 14-year-old. Orange is refusing to budge on the bill and the rates that are charged are ridiculous.

"I don't understand why another message wasn't sent after the one that said the bill had reached £320. Why wasn't another sent at £500 or £1,000? Anyone could press a button to say they wanted to continue using data roaming.

"Casey was upset by this and I was in tears but we are just going to have to pay the bill."

An Orange spokesperson said: "All customers have protections in place which limit their charges to £49 for a set amount of data. In this instance, the customer received numerous text alerts which updated her on the roaming costs for America. She actively opted out of our roaming data cap to use data, effectively removing the in-built protection from large data roaming bills."

Roaming charges in Europe have just come down drastically, thanks to new EU limits. I know it won't be any solace to Casey and her family, but using your mobile there is much cheaper than it was. If Casey had checked her Facebook account every day for a week on the continent, she would've been charged around £180 under the old pricing structure. But now that's fallen to just £13.

Are roaming charges still too high? What's the nastiest phone bill you've ever come home to? And have the networks done a good enough job explaining the costs to the average customer? Let me know in the comments, or on our completely free Facebook page.

Editor's note: The picture above is not of Casey Snook. Instead, we have used an image of a rather sad-looking dog. 

Update: A previous version of this story reported that Orange claimed Casey clicked 'yes' when asked if she wanted to keep data roaming on. Orange has clarified this, saying customers must text a separate number to ask for the cap to be lifted.