Couple's £163,000 mobile phone bill shock

"It is like kicking somebody in the teeth while they are down"

An electrician and his wife had a shock when they received a mobile phone bill for £163,000, then fought for months to have the debt cleared.

For 15 years, Alan and Carolyn Mazkouri, from Swansea, had a business deal with Orange for 10 phones.

They told the BBC's Watchdog programme that they normally had a bill for £300 a month, before the shock demand came in September.

Orange has now apologised and promised a refund and a gesture of goodwill.

Download frenzy

Mr Mazkouri's contract with Orange covered his work phone and the phones used by his employees.

He reported a problem with his phone last summer when the handset seemed to overheat. The phone was eventually replaced by the shop where he bought it.

Shortly afterwards, the phone was cut off and the couple were informed that this was the result of a large bill on the account.

The bill suggested that Mr Mazkouri's phone had downloaded data by dialling up the internet every 20 minutes for three weeks.

The data use was the equivalent of downloading more than five million emails or 15,000 songs - and resulted in a bill of £163,178.86.

Mr Mazkouri described himself as a technophobe who had trouble sending a text message, so was "dumbfounded" by the download of such a huge chunk of data.

Apology

He said that Orange agreed to cancel the debt, but then continued to send him bills for more than seven months.

He was left frustrated after trying to contact Orange, and even instructed a solicitor to do the same. He described the saga as an "absolute misery" for him and his family.

Now, Orange has cancelled the whole bill and offered Mr Mazkouri £250 in compensation.

"We apologise to the Mazkouris for the inconvenience. We have fully refunded all charges from this exceptionally high bill and offered a further gesture of goodwill. We look forward to hearing from them," a company spokesman said.

Mr Mazkouri said he was switching mobile phone provider.

This story will feature in the BBC's Watchdog programme on BBC One at 20:00BST on Wednesday, 22 May.

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