Australia: Customer does not have to pay 191,000 dollar bill

Australia: Customer does not have to pay 191,000 dollar bill
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Christian Boas

After a protracted legal dispute, Australia’s Kim Beveridge can finally breathe again. The Supreme Court Victoria has decided that he does not have to pay his phone bill of 191,453 Australian dollars (around 163,000 euros). The Australian telecommunication company Telechoice had previously issued the bill after the Beveridge phone was stolen on a business trip in Barcelona. The device was extensively used by the thieves for 20 hours, which caused enormous costs for Beveridge.

The robbers have made a total of 4,484 calls in 20 hours and sent thousands of SMS, most of them from Australia to Latvia. The data roaming, the call forwarding and the SMS service abroad were activated. When Beveridge was back in Australia, he received the bill for it. Although he had not made the calls demonstrably, he offered to pay the competent telecommunication provider 8,000 dollars as compensation. However, Telechoice rejected this offer.

Stubbornly in court
The Australian provider, which uses the mobile network Telstra to bring its services to the man, invited Beveridge instead to court. The County Court of Victoria denied the $ 191,000 bill as unscrupulous, then Telechoice lowered the amount to $ 34,945 (about € 29,736). The telecommunication company, however, did not want to let go and brought the case up to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court quickly beat Beveridge’s side. Primarily, because the call forwarding and the SMS service were not included in the international roaming service, Beveridge had agreed to contractually. The decision is: Telechoice has to accept the costs of the now relieved customer. Telechoice’s appeal was rejected.

No chance without lawyer
Kim Beveridge’s lawyer, Jonathan Evans, says the victory is very satisfying for his client because he was prosecuted for something that was not under his control.

“The only mistake he made was to wait 20 hours before he reported the theft,” said Evans.

According to Evans, not even the Ombudsman for telecommunications had legal basis in the case to intervene because the amount was over 50,000 dollars.

“Most people believe the Ombudsman can help. But as there was an upper limit, Beveridge was forced to hire lawyers for the trial, which cost him a lot of money out of his own pocket, “Evans concludes.

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