North West Wales

Barmouth teacher's £15k bill as mobile stolen in Barcelona

Osian Rhys Edwards
Image caption Osian Rhys Edwards says his plans to move out of his parents' house have been jeopardised

A teacher says he is facing financial ruin after Vodafone insisted he pay a £15,000 bill run up after thieves stole his mobile phone in Barcelona.

Osian Rhys Edwards, 29, from Barmouth, Gwynedd, says he called the company immediately to cancel his phone.

But weeks later he was shocked to receive the huge bill, which had been racked up in just a few hours calling premium rate lines.

Vodafone said Mr Edwards had not called them for four days after the theft.

Blacklisted for credit

Mr Edwards said he fears his life will be on hold for the "next ten to 15 years" because of the bill, with plans to move out of his parents' house in jeopardy.

He said he will also be blacklisted and unable to get credit, such as a mortgage, because he has been forced to default on paying the bill.

The only option, he says, may be to take Vodafone to court.

"£15,000 is a lot of money, added to the fact my life is on hold," he said.

"Why should my life be on hold for something I was not responsible for?"

He added: "I'm facing financial ruin."

'Holding me liable'

Mr Edwards was on holiday in the Spanish city with friends early last August when they became lost one evening.

A man stopped to help them and it is then that Mr Edwards believes he became the victim of a pickpocket.

He said he contacted Vodafone immediately as he was aware Barcelona had a problem with thieves stealing phones and racking up huge phone bills.

He said he spoke to a woman at the company on the 1 August and she told him she would cancel his phone.

It only emerged later that it appears this did not happen and Mr Edwards said it was actually cancelled on 3 August.

'Reduce bill'

The bill comes despite Vodafone signing up to a UK government deal to stop shockingly high bills after a phone has been stolen.

When it was announced last December, the cap on bills was expected to be similar level to the £50 liability cap on stolen credit and debit cards.

A spokeswoman for Vodafone told The Guardian newspaper: "It is very easy for criminals to rapidly build up high charges using stolen phones, which is why we encourage customers to report phones missing as quickly as possible.

"When a customer's phone is lost or stolen, they are responsible for all the charges up to the point they contact us to report it missing.

"They, or someone on their behalf, can do this 24 hours a day, 365 days a year - either from another phone or online.

"Despite not reporting the theft of his phone for four days, we have offered to reduce Mr Edwards' outstanding charges by 25%.

"In the light of our failure to call him back when we should have done, we will increase this offer to 30%.

"We are also prepared to discuss a payment plan."

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