Your phone bill this month is 46 000 EUR

These things occur on a regular basis and I think I've pointed to a few in the past (and I guess James and Matt might have a field day with this one…) Le Monde published the story yesterday of this French customer of Orange's who purchased a 3G dongle for his laptop. The guy lives in Valenciennes, near the Belgian border. His monthly subscription was 95 EUR for an all you can eat data connection.

His first month's bill was 46 000 EUR. Mind you, that's only 485 times his nominal fee. How did that happen? According to Orange, he lives too close to Belgium and as a consequence his dongle was connecting  to a Belgian mobile network more often than not. Orange, of course, considers itself not responsable for this and is claiming the full bill.

Yet again, we have a highly visible illustration of absurd pricing schemes completely disconnected from actual usage, an illustration of how little telcos control their own networks and perhaps most importantly an illustration of how dreadful they are at real-time monitoring of their customer's consumption. You would have thought that once the guy's bill hit ten times his nominal fee (which was probably on the second day of the month) they might have noticed that something was going wrong…

This one will finish like every other one: Orange will start negociating once they realise their brand image has been hurt a little bit more by this latest avatar of the "telecom operators are screwing us" meme…

I can't imagine the nightmare that mobile service must be for all people living on their countries' border.