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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    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.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    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.

     

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  3.  
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    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. :)

     

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  4.  
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    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?



    >.>

     

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

    Not Hard to Imagine

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

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    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.

     

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  7.  
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    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.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    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.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    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

     

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

    Re: There's an idea

    My phone bill is with AT&T -winkwink-

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    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.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    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.


    This is already done

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    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.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    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."

     

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  15.  
    icon
    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.).

     

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

    So did he pay?

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    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).

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    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.

     

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

    @suv4X4:

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

     

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

    Just a little greedy

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

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    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!!!

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    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

     

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

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

    idiots all of em.

     

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

    Early Termination Fee.

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

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    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.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    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?

     

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  27.  
    icon
    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

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    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

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    ?, 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.

     

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

    Maccaroni Minutes

    Someone went over on their Maccaroni Minutes.

    But hey, someone did mention Geico right?

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    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

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    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.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    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.

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    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!

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    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?

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    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.

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    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!

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    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.

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    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?

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    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...

     

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  41.  
    identicon
    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.

     

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

    Excellent strategy Topher! You typed my thoughts out.

     

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

    Get your dues

    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

     

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

    Re: What I would do

    Too bad you would never win in court.

     

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

    Re: Get your dues

    Your experiences are vastly different from mine.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    identicon
    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.

     

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  47.  
    identicon
    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.

     

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  48.  
    identicon
    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).

     

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  49.  
    identicon
    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.

     

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  50.  
    identicon
    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??

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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