I just happened to be checking my current mobile phone usage this morning, and the charges accruing towards my next bill, and discovered that it will be nearly double the normal £17. Shock horror!
Vodafone's smartphone app simply told me the headline bad news: out-of-bundle charges of £7.98 for calls and £4.55 for texts. But when? And who to?
I mean, my SIM-only deal with Vodafone allows me 500 minutes per month of UK calls, which is normally far, far more than I need. In the main, it's unusual for me to make a voice call at all. I never ring people up just for a chat. Though thinking about it, I could recall one recent exception to that - an hour speaking to Jayne in North Devon about important personal matters affecting herself. But Devon is in the UK...
As for texting, my deal gives me unlimited UK texts. I should never have to pay extra.
Gosh, had my phone been taken over by someone? Or had Vodafone somehow messed up, and charged me for someone's else's mobile phone usage? How could that be unraveled and put right?
Well, I went online, and logged into their full website, seeking explanations. Usage...there were the same figures...let's get a proper breakdown...Oh, I see...
Silly me, I'd forgotten a call made to local friend Jo on 26th January, while she was briefly in hospital.
I had been going to text her on her own phone, to find out how she was. But I got a text from the hospital saying that, as part of their service to patients, Jo had been given a special mobile phone to use, so that she could keep in touch with friends and family. They gave me the number. It sounded like a free service for Jo to use as she wished. How nice of them, I thought.
So instead of texting, I gave her a ring. I simply wanted to ask her if it would be all right to pop in that afternoon and see her. It wasn't a long conversation. There was no need for one - we could chat at length later on, face-to-face. In fact I brought Jackie and Valerie with me, and Sue turned up independently soon afterwards, so that there was quite a crowd in her room.
I forgot all about that single short call to that hospital mobile number. But, given the date and time, I now identified it as the one that Vodafone were going to charge me £7.98 for. The call had lasted 870 seconds - fourteen and a half minutes - longer than I remembered, but still not very long. The number was a UK one, 07003 362044. An '07' number was usually a no-charge number. There had been no warning that it might be otherwise.
In hindsight, I should have been suspicious. All 'services' come at a price. If it was free for Jo, then somebody else would have to pay. I could easily have looked the number up on the Internet, and if I'd done so I would had seen this web page: http://www.area-codes.org.uk/07003-numbers.php. It was a 'personal numbering service' number belonging to Hospedia, a big outfit who provide bedside media and communication services to NHS patients across the country. They are notorious for their 'rip-off' charges, but I was unaware of that.
So I'd been caught. Jo may have had free calls and free TV, but her friends and family would pay through the nose to communicate with her.
I think this is disgusting. Especially as no warning is given. I won't be fooled a second time, I can tell you.
As for the texts, which Vodafone were charging me £4.55 for, there were thirteen of them, all on 22nd January. I had sent twelve of them between 9.29am and 9.56am, and then one more at 9.15pm.
Recall was easier on this. Especially when I checked the phone number, which began with '64'. They'd all gone to New Zealand, to my step-daughter Adrienne. We'd been exchanging New Year emails, but then Adrienne had launched into a chat-by-text session, bombarding me with sections of text every few minutes. This was something I was not used to. Each long text had been broken up into shorter sections that arrived at brief intervals, one after another. I made the error of responding to every section as it arrived. I should have waited a bit, then replied with a single text, not multiple ones. Little did I think that I'd be charged 35p for every response. For these were not of course to a UK number.
I think we'll stick to emailing in the future!
These episodes just go to show how you need your wits about you. My thoughtlessness has cost me a hefty £12.57.
At least I did establish that it was all my own fault, and that Vodafone hadn't made some ghastly mistake that would have destroyed my faith in their billing. Small comfort, though.