It was a trip that Rene Remund and his wife described as “magical”. The two Americans, who live in Florida, explored the Swiss Alps together. But when they were back in their home of Dunedin, the shock came: their mobile phone provider T-Mobile gave them a bill for the amount of a luxury car.

Remund is said to have incurred 143,443 dollars, the equivalent of around 134,000 euros, in cell phone costs, according to the invoice that is available to the US television station “ABC”. At first glance, Remund didn’t even recognize the catastrophe: he thought it was $143. It was only after a few days that he realized what enormous sums the provider was asking him to pay. And initially thought it was a mistake.

A call to T-Mobile didn’t bring any relief – on the contrary. “The bill is fine,” the employee of the now independent US branch of German Telekom explained to him. Remund was blown away. “Are you kidding me?” he barely managed to say, he recalled to ABC. But the lady stuck to it: “That’s the amount you owe us.”

The horrendous sum was caused by the roaming charges on Remund’s smartphone: During the trip he diligently posted photos and videos, resulting in 9.5 gigabytes of data traffic. That’s not a little, but it’s not unusually much either. The problem: The data volume overseas was not included in the contract.

Edmund even wanted to protect himself from such cost traps. Before the trip, he visited a T-Mobile store and informed the company about the trip. And was there to be calmed down. “They said I was covered,” he recalls to ABC. “Whatever they meant by that, I’m covered.”

An attempt to clarify the situation with a lawyer was unsuccessful: the company ignored the requests. Only an idea from the lawyer finally brought the solution. He contacted “ABC” – and suddenly things happened very quickly: within a few days, an employee called Remund and offered to cancel the entire amount. To the great relief of the travelers. T-Mobile emphasized to the TV station that when traveling abroad, they recommend checking the contracts to see whether they include roaming – which Remund had actually done.

The case is reminiscent of the early days of the smartphone. The data tariffs that were still relatively new at the time regularly caused extreme bills due to roaming. Fortunately, at least within the EU, this is rarely an issue anymore with the introduction of European roaming. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t happen: In January, an Austrian mobile phone customer received a bill for almost 100,000 euros – also for 10 GB of data volume when visiting Switzerland. In the end, the mobile phone provider also admitted a mistake and reimbursed the costs.

Sources: ABC, Vorarlberg Online