O2 demanded £8,300 after a mobile phone theft

My phone was stolen on the last day of my holiday in Barcelona. The upshot is that O2 has sent us a bill for £8,300 – a sum I have no hope of paying. I only realised my phone was missing late in the evening as I waited to board a delayed flight back to the UK. I did not arrive home until 3am, and was unable to leave the flat due to illness the following day. In the intervening period, the thief had removed my sim card from the pin-protected handset and used it to run up this massive bill.

Although O2 blocked my phone within 24 hours of it being taken, after seeing the high volume of calls, it is demanding the £8,300 as I did not report the incident within the required 24 hours. I had no other phone at the time and had to board the flight home. I have complained, but O2 says we are liable. We don’t have this kind of money. Is it fair that 02 can demand I pay?
, London

No summer would be complete without a “I had my phone stolen in Barcelona and got a massive bill as a result” story. Over the years I have written a number of these, and the biggest bill so far has been £15,000. Thieves tend to target holidaymakers in and around the Las Ramblas area, in particular. They remove the sim card, put it in an unlocked handset and use it to call premium-rate numbers typically based in eastern Europe until the sim card is finally blocked, either because it hits its credit limit or the owner reports the phone stolen. Every now and then they get lucky and are able to rack up a huge bill, as in your case.

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O2 has now agreed to waive the bill minus £100 but it declined to explain how the thieves were able to run up such a bill. Mobile phone customers are now allowed to set a maximum credit limit on their account, but too few customers have set one. The moral of the tale is to contact your mobile provider and put a limit in place – particularly if you are heading to Europe’s petty theft capital, Barcelona.

And if you get your mobile phone stolen, make sure you report it within 24 hours. To not do so, if you have not set a credit limit, risks these kinds of bills. You can also protect your sim with a pin – for the belt-and-braces approach.

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