Too Much Free Time

# How Many Phone Calls Does It Take To Get A \$218 Trillion Phone Bill?

### from the not-too-many,-apparently dept

Sometimes there are errors that seem so egregious that you figure someone, somewhere along the line should have caught them. It appears that a man in Malaysia has been sent a telephone bill for approximately \$218 trillion, which is quite a bit more than the sum of the entire world's GDP (or GWP, if you want to be specific), let alone the Malaysian GDP. The story is that it was the man's father's phone line, which he had disconnected in January after his father's death. At the time, he paid the remaining \$23 and assumed everything was settled. Somewhere along the way, though, something got messed up, and the man received this new bill, with the demand that he pay it off within 10 days. You have to give the Associated Press credit for admitting that: "It wasn't clear whether the bill was a mistake, or if Yahaya's father's phone line was used illegally after after his death." However, you have to wonder just how many phone calls it would take, between January when the last bill was paid and now, to create a \$218 trillion phone bill. We hope the phone company hadn't started spending on infrastructure improvements while awaiting the payment of the bill. Either way, this seems like the sort of thing that someone (computer or human) probably should have noticed before the bill got sent out.

1.
nonuser, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 4:38pm

### never agree

to pay one penny on the first day, two pennies on the second day, four on the third and doubling each day thereafter. No matter how good the service is you end up way overpaying.

2.
SH, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 4:39pm

Surviving relatives are legally responsible for deceased people's debts? Hmm. Wonder how long before the lawyers in the USA catch wind of this and start legislating it into existence.

3.
duralisis, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 5:29pm

### This much...

I calculate that he was charged at the rate of \$1,513,888,888.88 USD per minute. Not possible, even if the entire nation was using his phone at the same time. :)

4.
DittoBox, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 5:47pm

### There's an idea

Either way, this seems like the sort of thing that someone (computer or human) probably should have noticed before the bill got sent out.

Computer? You mean if someone cracked the software at a large telco that if any bill goes over say...50 bucks that's taken off the top and charged instead to the CEO's account and the bill is with a balance due of just 50 bucks?

>.>

5.
Anonymous Hero, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 6:12pm

### Not Hard to Imagine

It was all those add-on telco "fees" that did it.

6.
mrops, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 6:20pm

### Call from HEaven... or hell

Hey, who knows the dad continued to use his phone from heaven or hell.

If heaven/hell are out of this universe, that gotta explain the bill.

7.
A chicken passeth by, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 6:22pm

### Probably a dialer infection.

Don't know where. Very likely on the Telco's side, as the account had long been cancelled and paid off by the man, and the only way to get that high a bill is right at the call station where many connections at once is possible.

8.
Evilpimper, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 6:29pm

maybee he called god.
who knows. or prolly he made a collect call to planet Argon 5 sector z plural 9 5 alpha. that sorta shit can be expensive.

9.
vikram, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 6:38pm

### Computer ERROR

hey could it be a simple computer error. a bad piece of code i guess.

in malaysia , infact in ASIA, the theft of phone line and time, stealing mobile phone air time are very common things. i am not surprised if some group of indonesian or vitenamese hackers got the access of the account and make it public. But again TRILLIONS is impossible.

:)

I hope the guy is not made to pay.

vik

10.
Jennifer, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 6:41pm

### Re: There's an idea

My phone bill is with AT&T -winkwink-

11.
Joe, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 6:59pm

### Well I have good news for him...

....I saved a bunch of money on my car insurance by switching to Geico.

I saved a kazillion dollars doing that.

12.
Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 7:02pm

### Re:

Surviving relatives are legally responsible for deceased people's debts? Hmm. Wonder how long before the lawyers in the USA catch wind of this and start legislating it into existence.

13.
JakeBuck@gmail.com, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 7:02pm

### Re:

The next of kin IS responsable for the payment of a deceased's debt in the USA. Its been that way for a looong time.

14.
WhoTheHellCaresWhatMyNameIs, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 7:10pm

in reference to the USA relative thread, of course next of kin pickup the bill, otherwise it would go something to the effect of "Hey mom, I know your busy perilously hanging over that surely deadly cliff, but could you sign this and take on my mortgage debt real quick? Thanks. Miss you this Thanksgiving."

15.
Ron (profile), Apr 10th, 2006 @ 7:17pm

### Debt

In the US, the deceased's heirs are not responsible for the debts of the deceased. The payment for debts is taken from the deceased's assets and then any remaining assets are distributed to the heirs as stated in the will or by law. However, once those assets are exhausted, remaining debts are not paid. Heirs are responsible only for debt incurred when they are party to the debt (such as shared credit card accounts, co-signer on a loan, etc.).

16.
suv4x4, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 7:18pm

So did he pay?

17.
AvitarX, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 7:29pm

### Re:

"Hey mom, I know your busy perilously hanging over that surely deadly cliff, but could you sign this and take on my mortgage debt real quick? Thanks. Miss you this Thanksgiving."

Wow, you have a great bank, they just let you transfor over your mortgage to whomever you please on a whim?

Usually to be released from a mortgage you need to pay the whole thing (or die).

18.
Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 7:35pm

### Re:

@WhoTheHellCaresWhatMyNameIs
It doesn't wark that way. The lender would have to approve of the deal first, which would be unlikely if she were hanging over a deadly cliff. Sorry to disappoint you.

19.
A chicken passeth by, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 7:35pm

@suv4X4:

No news yet, will keep you posted. *in region*

20.
op man, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 8:12pm

### Just a little greedy

Sometimes the phone companies got a bit greedy. That's it.

21.
penny pincher, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 8:19pm

### Re: never agree

Well, if only a single penny were left on the account, and it had a 100% daily interest rate, the total would be nearly \$400 TRILLION dollars by only day 55!!!

22.
Kevin Dill, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 8:22pm

### You obviously have not met my #2 son.

Give him a cell phone, and kiss your wallet goodbye!

Kevin Dill
http://ushightech.com

23.
Andrew Strasser, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 8:55pm

### let's leave that stuff to the pro's right...

idiots all of em.

24.
Michael, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 9:14pm

### Early Termination Fee.

That's not an error, it's the early termination fees that got him.

25.
Anonymous Patriot, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 9:38pm

It would be fine with the bank if your imperiled mom wants to take on your mortgage dept, because the dept is secured by your house, not by your mother’s life. So when the bitch dies, and stops paying the tab, the bank will just come to seize its collateral – your house.

26.
Dan, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 10:16pm

### Serious?

Comon! It is clearly a mistake at the company, the letter is most likely automated... No one is silly enough to think they can get someone who obviously lacks \$200+ trillion dollars to pay them that much money... Seriously. Why is this even news?

27.
PsuedoDragon (profile), Apr 10th, 2006 @ 10:24pm

### my bill is WHAT????????

if the phone company told me that my phone bill is \$218 trillion (which is more than all the money in the world) im gonna tell them to go jump off a cliff

28.
Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 11:00pm

### Re: my bill is WHAT????????

I have Verizon...

I know they would help push you toward that cliff edge, ridiculous or not

29.
?, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 11:06pm

If his phone company is like my phone company (which I will lovingly call 'All' for short), then he is screwed because they don't forgive very easily in billing disputes, no matter if you are a 300 minute a month, or 2000 minute per month customer.

One month, I broke my phone. Called Alll, and told them about the broken phone, and to "disable" the account for a month. I didn't get a new phone until the end of the month (out of country, didn't need one). But yet, some how I managed to rack up more than my 2000 minutes in calls.

It took months of work before they decided that I shouldn't have to pay that bill, and to this day, I'm still trying to get the deliquency dings pulled off of my credit report.

30.
Bluetooth, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 11:09pm

### Maccaroni Minutes

Someone went over on their Maccaroni Minutes.

But hey, someone did mention Geico right?

31.
Maddy, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 11:14pm

### Scan of that Bill!

Does anybody have a scanned image of that legendary telephone bill? I'd definitely like to keep one in my archive :D

32.
Sean, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 11:52pm

### Re: Serious?

"Comon! It is clearly a mistake at the company, the letter is most likely automated"

That's what I was thinking. Any fully automated company could make this kind of mistake and miss it. It's not like there's something in the software that says "IF (bill >= 5 million dollars) set off alarms and pull for human review". Why would they have something like that? When would a bill ever get that high?

This whole thing is more of a funny/interesting story, and the comments here are proof of that. This shouldn't be passed off as news.

33.
CrazyPunk, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 12:26am

"It's not like there's something in the software that says "IF (bill >= 5 million dollars) set off alarms and pull for human review". Why would they have something like that?"

Indeed, they prolly didn't include such line in the software because this practically never happens, but still they should have thought of such a case.

It is said that computers don't make mistake. Unless their system has some kind of defect, it must be some kind of human mistake in the program. Either way, it's better to include such a line just in case, you never know.

34.
steve, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 12:47am

### yay for outsourcing!

..or perhaps the first bug found when that phone company used a pc version of microsoft excel on apples new intel machine!

35.
SenoritaDiabla, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 1:09am

### Re: Serious?

Because it shows how shoddy computer work can be. If no one notices this obvious mistake, who's to say they'll notice an extra \$20 on YOUR bill?

36.
Peter, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 4:02am

### Oops

Makes when I got a phone bill for £0.00 and got demands for paying the amount, or my line would be cut look a bit naff. In the end, I just sent them a check for £0.00 which seemed to shut them up.

37.
jpee, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 4:07am

### thats not unusual !

it is just few dollers lesser than mymonthly bill !!
I use vodafone in Europe and use phone few minitues a month and few SMS/text. receive ridiculous amount of bill..

the phone companies policy is very simple!

their subscriber either can have money or phone!

38.
Rasli, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 4:36am

### Telekom Malaysia's Standard operating Procedure

Simillar situation happned to me, received notice from collection agency via my ex employer. However my bill was only for RM160 and not this crazy trillions but this incident points out that TM still has a major back office issue that is not being looked into or taken seriously.

In my case called and wrote to everyone including Collection agency and billing department, no luck. Finally faxed the MD and got a reply that they will look into it.

To cut a long story short, I just paid the bill ... not worth all the hassle for RM160 (US45) coz correspondence and phone calls were already costing me more the RM200.

Wishful thinking on my part that the MD would do something about it after receiving my fax, guess I was wrong. All this happned in middle 2005.

39.
Can You Hear Me Now, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 6:37am

Well, we now have proof of the afterlife. What I want to know is did the guy have T-Mobile or Verizon? If he had a T-Mobile plan, then we know the guy went to heaven, because heaven wouldn't let Verizon install towers there. If he was a Verizon customer, then we know he is in hell.

Don't you guys realize that the rates in the afterlife are a bit higher?

40.
LiLWiP, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 7:08am

### Re: Re: Serious?

The fact that both of the above posters felt it necessary to read AND comment on this article is EXACTLY what makes this news! As someone else already posted, if a mistake of 218 trillion dollars is allowed to slip out and get charged then there is no possible reason that a \$20 or \$50 mistake will get caught. Then it becomes your responsibility to PROVE that it is a mistake or your credit score will take a hit for it...

Mistakes happen, but something this big is DEFINATELY news...

41.
Topher3105, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 8:01am

### What I would do

Sit on the bill and don't pay it, and don't even bring it to their attention. Let them send continued late payment notices and when they start to threaten sending a collection agency after you or they affect your credit score, sue them for damages in the amount of only \$218 million (your not greedy right).

If a company lets this get to the point where a collection agency is involved in trying to collect a 218 trillion bill, then they deserve to be sued and bankrupted. It demonstrates massive ignorance and a complete lack of customer care for them to miss this mistake this late in the process.

42.
Maddy, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 9:09am

Excellent strategy Topher! You typed my thoughts out.

43.
Refund Warrior, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 11:16am

A little off topic.... When you have a day off, call your utility companies and throw a huge fit about the lack of customer service and how long you have been a loyal customer, then allow a months credit to your account to make up for the shotty service. You will be amazed how often this works.... ive gotten comcast to foot my bill 3 months, (not consecutive), Gas company has dropped an outrageous winter heating bill to my next highest bill \$180 to \$78, And got vonage to give me 4 months for free citing I was not credited my free months for bringing new customers.....(never brought any)

Customer service is there for YOU, remember, most companies still operate as if the customer IS the bottom line

44.
Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 12:09pm

### Re: What I would do

Too bad you would never win in court.

45.
Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 12:10pm

Your experiences are vastly different from mine.

46.
Joe Smith, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 2:52pm

### Re: Re: Re: Serious?

The people who should be raising hell are the shareholders of the company that sent the bill.
They should be asking questions like:
1) why is our software so badly written that the bill could go out in the first place. Good software checks the reasonableness of all input.
2.) is the billing software integrated with our other financial software and if not why not? How could a bill this big go out, with the implicit impact on the bottom line, and not have it come to the attention of management the same day or the next day.

47.
AmazonSister, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 3:17pm

### I'll second that scan

And to think, the goverment wasn't even envolved! When I saw the headline I hust natually assumed they'd exposed the phone bill for Congress!. Great imput Maddy, It would be a nice addition to my collection of Internet trivia.

48.
LexingtonKY, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 8:18pm

If it's happening, the company will go bankrupt first before they even send the bill or it's an obvious mistake by the system (like dividing a number by zero).

49.
LexingtonKY, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 8:22pm

Anyway, i think you can win in the court easily, because the company will have a hard time to print the details of the phone bill to come up with the total.

50.
Obtuse, Apr 13th, 2006 @ 12:24pm

Malaysian Father: Dear Son, In my will I leave all of my worldly possesions to you. Do with them as you will and have a wonderful life.

P.S. Could you pick up my phone bill for me??

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