If you have been following my blogs over the last two years you will notice a recurring theme highlighting the massive damage to CSPs and the industry as a whole from news articles on ‘Bill Shock’. The latest one really does ‘take the cake’ in terms of stupidity and lack of the most basic controls in the offending mobile operator.

The latest ‘victim’ (as the newspapers now call them) is no less than a Member of Parliament that has been affected, and you know how tetchy they can be! A South Australian MP was ‘rewarded’ with a $10,000 bill on his taxpayer-funded phone account after his son downloaded football games, without his knowledge. Even as an MP he did not understand that, while the smartphone had the capacity to download the applications, his phone plan did not.

It is not yet clear if the charges were from the actual download or for the time his son spent playing the free games. The MP couldn’t believe somebody could be charged $4,000 for playing a game online for one hour. “It sounds mind-boggling” he is quoted as saying.

Yes, Mr MP, you are absolutely correct, and why would any operator allow a bill, normally around $200 per month, to reach such a gargantuan total.  At the very least, you should have expected their fraud management system (if they have one) to set off alarm bells at such a high and abnormal usage pattern. I bet every fraudster in Australia is clamoring to find out the name of the operator as I write!

The MP, so embarrassed and frightened by the potential backlash from his constituents, is having to pay the bill himself. However, he has taken up the matter with the national Minister of Communications who is already investigating reports from industry ombudsmen that the telcos generate by far the greatest number of complaints to statutory and consumer bodies in the country.

I’m sorry, but I’m beginning to find these stories difficult to cope with, let alone understand. Not a week goes by without a headline appearing somewhere in the world on bill shock. Yes, I know that the customer is nearly always at fault because they did not understand the terms of their contract or hadn’t read the fine print but surely we, as an industry, should take responsibility and at least warn them when something so obviously wrong is happening to their account.

The regulators will be forced to step in soon and that can only mean more restrictions and higher costs. If our constant bleating about the advantages of online charging for ALL subscribers hasn’t sunk in by now I guess it never will!