SUR

The charge of the light-fingered brigade

There was a rather brilliantly titled 'Emotion' charge for eight euros. Wonderful, I thought, now they're charging us for our feelings as we chat. I phoned the company concerned.

PETER EDGERTON WWW.PETEREDGERTON.COM

There are many and varied reasons a chap opens his utility bills with a sense of trepidation these days.

Where electricity is concerned, it's the knowledge that the final figure is seemingly randomly generated by a bloke pulling numbered balls out of a hat somewhere near Toledo. The telephone bill is also a law unto itself, though for quite different reasons. For the last six months, mine has included at least one mistake of some kind, often two and, occasionally, three.

This month's bill reached new heights. As always, the total cost was a bit higher than agreed in my contract. As always, I scrolled down to the 'extras' bit of the bill. As always, there were a couple of them that made sense and a couple that didn't. There was also a rather brilliantly titled 'Emotion' charge for eight euros. Wonderful, I thought, now they're charging us for our feelings as we chat. I phoned the company concerned.

"Good evening, madam. Look here, it appears I've been charged for the depth of my despair this month at eight euros a pop. Might you be so kind as to explain?"

"Ah yes, sir. This is for videos you've been watching on your phone. Some of them aren't free."

"I don't watch videos on my phone. I'm not thirteen."

"Ah, yes, sir. It will have been something else you've clicked on, then."

"Like what?"

"Like anything. It should let you know you're being charged first, of course."

"Well, it didn't. I'd like a refund please."

"Ok.''

"Eh? Waddyamean 'ok'? I might simply be lying and wangling a refund having gleefully watched somebody famous doing something idiotic in a jungle."

"No, no. We believe you. It happens a lot. Eight euros will be deducted from your next bill and we've disabled your emotion."

"Sorry? I thought only my ex-girlfriend was capable of that."

"No, I mean we've disabled your Emotion feature on the phone. You can't be charged for watching videos anymore."

"That's a relief. I thought some dancing Kardashian or other might be randomly unleashed upon me while I was texting a sales rep."

The gist of the conversation was genuinely thus. Basically, I was charged eight euros (plus IVA) for clicking on something that didn't inform me of the fact and when I complained, I was given a no-questions-asked refund and a begrudging apology.

Now then, imagine if I were somebody more interesting and had better things to do than inspect my bills with a magnifying glass, that money would have been successfully and unlawfully charged. Let's say the telephone company has ten million customers in Spain and ten per cent of them don't notice the unwanted extra.

That's a lot of euros for some communications bigwig somewhere.