I have two SIM-only contracts with EE costing about £28 per month for unlimited calls, texts and limited data. Since one of the phones is for my teenage daughter, a £5 monthly spending cap was agreed.
In June, she and my wife went to the Philippines for three weeks to see family. Ten days later I received a text from my bank, Barclays, asking me to transfer £3,329 into my account so my EE direct debit payment did not bounce. When I logged in I saw that EE was trying to take £9,226.
Shocked and confused, I called EE and spoke with a woman who said she couldn’t see anything on the account, so thought it must be fraud. She asked me to contact my bank immediately, which I did and Barclays cancelled the direct debit.
Eye watering bills: Our reader received a £9,226 bill from EE and was told the spending cap did not apply to data – only calls and texts
Surprised to hear nothing from EE over the following days, I tried to ring numerous times. Eventually I managed to speak to someone, who told me the sickening news that the bill was correct.
I contacted EE’s executive office, which said the bill was for numerous data bundles used in the Philippines.
When I asked about the £5 spending cap I was told this did not apply to data — only calls and texts.
I was asked to pay £500 to prevent the debt being sent to a collection agency. As I did not want debt collectors at my door I reluctantly paid the sum.
Sally Hamilton replies: You suffered the kind of post-holiday tummy bug many travellers dread — that sick feeling when a mobile phone bill comes back to bite.
Data roaming is when a device connects to the internet via a local network and not the customer’s usual provider. This means anyone sending emails, streaming films or checking Facebook while abroad can be landed with additional charges.
Such costs are back with a vengeance even for those travelling to European destinations. After a five-year respite from the risk of horror bills, travellers need to be wary of using their devices on the Continent again. Rules introduced in 2017 meant UK travellers paid no extra for using their mobiles abroad but this no longer applies.
I can understand how queasy you must have felt when the £9,226 demand came. So, I asked EE, which is part of BT, to look again at your case, find out what went wrong and see if it could reduce your monster bill.
It seems your daughter, aged 14, had agreed the purchase of data passes through a link on the EE website and confirmed these via verification text messages. In total she bought 164 packages costing £57.10 a pop.
Even though she (without you knowing) had consented to these purchases, EE agreed to reduce the bill by £8,500 — more than 90 per cent — ‘given the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, and as a gesture of goodwill’. Although I asked, EE did not explain how you had been misinformed about the £5 cap on your daughter’s phone.
Still, you were relieved to have the majority of the bill waived. You have lectured your daughter and downgraded her to a pay-as-you-go phone but plan to complain to the communications ombudsman.
EE says it offers customers tools to manage spending on services not included in their usual spending caps, which can prevent add-ons being charged.
Ernest Doku, at mobile comparison service Uswitch, says providers should do more to warn customers of lurking data dangers, but recommends they check contracts before travel and consider buying data passes or add-ons to help reduce costs.
Other steps include downloading maps, films and music before leaving home and switching off voicemail as this can incur high charges for playing back.
Using a hotel or cafe wi-fi means being able to use data and make WhatsApp calls for free. But be aware these connections might not be secure, so avoid banking online in these places.
The only sure-fire way to stop data bills putting a damper on a holiday is to switch a phone to flight mode — or leave it at home.
What happened to our family’s life policies?
My dad died in January and, while organising his affairs, I found a paid-up premium insurance book for four life policies with Liverpool Victoria — two for my dad and one each for myself and my brother. I contacted the firm — now called LV= — and was asked to send a copy of the book.
In May, after much chasing, I received a letter stating the policies are ‘not in force’ and if I required more information, I would need to send a copy of dad’s death certificate. I’m willing to do this but only if it confirms the policies have actually been found. In any case, why can’t they tell me about my policy and that of my brother, as we are very much alive?
M. O., Bromley.
LV= told our reader that their policies were not ‘not in force’ and would need to send a copy of their dad’s death certificate if they wanted more information
Sally Hamilton replies: The policies you unearthed were the kind where insurance salesmen once went door to door to collect premiums of often just a few pennies.
Many thousands have now been forgotten. You hoped that there might be some value in the ones you had stumbled across but felt baffled by LV=’s explanation.
I asked LV= to explain. It said all four plans, which dated from 1965, had been traced and that its team was waiting for your father’s death certificate before sharing information. A spokesman apologised for not giving you details about your own policy.
He says: ‘We are sorry that this was poorly communicated and caused confusion during a difficult time. When we confirmed that the policies were ‘no longer in force’, this means that the policies were no longer active as they were already paid out.’
It said your father’s policies, worth about £1,000, were paid out in the 1980s, as was the one in your name, in 1982, for £158. It would not comment on your brother’s without his permission. Although disappointed there was no windfall, you were pleased to have cleared up the puzzle.
It is always worth asking, as a few years ago LV= mounted a campaign that reunited 900 customers with lost policies worth between £50 and £500 each.
Visit lv.com/reconnect or phone 0800 023 4139.
- Write to Sally Hamilton at Sally Sorts It, Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT or email email@example.com — include phone number, address and a note addressed to the offending organisation giving them permission to talk to Sally Hamilton. Please do not send original documents as we cannot take responsibility for them. No legal responsibility can be accepted by the Daily Mail for answers given.
STRAIGHT TO THE POINT
Last July I registered with British Gas for its protection plan, which included 100 free days of energy. In October I asked about this and the online staff were very rude. My direct debit was then raised and I still haven’t received the free days.
C. D., Cumbria.
British Gas will apply the offer to your account by the end of September and has updated your direct debit amount. A spokesman apologises for the behaviour of the online staff, which is being addressed.
I ordered four pairs of shoes from Clarks, but received only three pairs. I have spent weeks trying to contact customer services.
L. B., Eastbourne.
Clarks has contacted you to apologise for the error and issued you with a refund for all four pairs of shoes as a gesture of goodwill.
We have been trying to cancel our Virgin Media broadband deal for five months. Despite repeatedly writing to them, we are still receiving requests for payment, with the latest totalling £86.13. We are also still stuck with the Virgin Media wi-fi box.
D. T., West Yorkshire.
A Virgin Media spokesman apologises and says a mistake was made when closing the account. The debt has now been wiped and someone has picked up the old equipment.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) contacted me on behalf of Willis Towers Watson saying I am due some money from an old pension. But I was asked for an address from 20 years ago to verify my identity, which I couldn’t recall, and nothing else would do so I gave up.
R. H., Peterborough.
A spokesman for the Department apologises and says someone will contact you to talk through how else you can verify your identity.