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Etc.

March 23, 2009



This will cost you big-time

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Slowly but surely, ski season is winding down. But for those such as Will Pierce of Chipstead, England, and his son, Louis, who wanted a late-winter vacation on the slopes, there was still plenty of good snow at Meribel in the French Alps. So off they went for a five-day stay with another father-son duo. One problem: At night, there wasn't much to do.

Meribel advertises trendy bars for après-ski, but, at 8, Louis and his friend might not have been admitted. Worse, the TV set in their rented apartment didn't receive English-language channels. How to keep the boys entertained before bedtime? Solution: download some of the TV shows they enjoy onto Will's laptop computer. They watched episodes of "Kavanagh QC," a courtroom drama, and the car-theme series "Top Gear," using a broadband access card issued by Vodafone, Will's cellphone service provider. The outing having been a big success, the four returned home two weeks ago.

Will then opened his accumulated mail ... and almost fell over in disbelief. Vodafone had wasted no time in sending his bill ... for $30,321.13. He hadn't realized – and no warning appeared on his computer screen – that downloading TV shows is charged per megabyte, or in this case almost $435 a minute.

"Utterly staggering," Will told reporters. "I'm amazed that Vodafone could allow [a customer] to run up such a huge bill without any warning or credit limit." It turns out that any change in pricing policy will have to come through the European Union Parliament, which could take months to become law.

Meanwhile, with public attention to Will's plight growing, Vodafone has agreed to cancel the bill.

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