GRACE ON THE CASE: I removed my data cap but now owe O2 £8.5k – how is this possible?

I am currently in Kazakhstan for work purposes and after my hotel WiFi didn’t work I was left relying on my data roaming which was capped.

I called O2 to add a travel bolt-on which I have used in other countries. The first person I spoke to said he needed to text a number to get the bolt-on activated but after 48 hours and numerous travel texts, still no bolt-on available.

The second person I spoke to said I was out of options while the third person said there is no bolt-on options for Kazakhstan and I will just have to use my data. 

An O2 customer was landed with a bill of over £8.5k after taking their data cap off abroad

I uncapped it as it’s important I have access to the internet for work purposes.

However, now my bill is currently at £8,596.97 without warning. How can I get this bill reduced? W.J., via email

Grace Gausden, consumer expert at This is Money, replies: Unfortunately you had downloaded a huge debt after removing your data cap abroad. 

When you arrived in Kazakhstan for work, the hotel WiFi was not working properly and you realised you would have to rely on your mobile data.

Prior to travelling, you had a standard cap on your account giving you a limit of 50MB data for £51 which wouldn’t be enough.

Once abroad, you were sent a text to advise you had reached that limit and replied to this requesting that your roaming allowance limit be increased to 200MB for £120 – the best deal O2 currently offers for travellers in Kazakhstan.

You contacted O2 after this asking for more data but the network said there was no more it could offer you. 

Therefore, you removed the cap. This was your first mistake as, even if necessary for work, you should have been aware at the high costs that could be added to your account as a result.


Our weekly column sees This is Money consumer expert Grace Gausden tackles reader problems and shines the light on companies doing both good and bad.

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Over the course of a couple of days, you racked up an impressive bill, with it currently standing at £8,596.97 – an amount that you say you are unable to pay.

While it is understandable that costs would escalate overseas without a data cap, you were shocked the sum was so high after a short amount of time.  

I contacted O2 to see how the bill had come to be so much and if there was anything it could do to reduce the amount.

Firstly, the network advised that, despite you saying there was no warning that the amount could be so high, O2 did text you and you did approve having the cap removed.

The network said you called customer services on 8 July and the adviser followed all correct process when speaking to you, advising you against removing the restriction on your account as there would be unlimited charges applied for the location you are in which would be very costly.

She also discussed other options regarding WiFi or a local sim and provided advice about turning data roaming on and off for use only when you needed as the device would use data in the background.

O2 said it gave the customer plenty of advice regarding taking a data cap off when overseas

O2 said it gave the customer plenty of advice regarding taking a data cap off when overseas

The adviser said to help spread any costs incurred from unrestricted roaming if you chose to do this, you could spread over two monthly bills, however if that was not affordable, you would need to speak with O2’s payment management team once the charges were billed.

O2 also helped you reset your MyO2 online portal account so you could manage your spend whilst abroad before it was billed. 

Fortunately, however, on this occasion, O2 has agreed to clear the charges you incurred for data roaming that are above the £120 bolt-on you requested.

I think this is extremely generous – yes, the bill is extremely high, but you were in a foreign land which may not have fantastic connection and to completely write it off is a result I wasn’t expecting. 

A spokesperson for O2 said: ‘Whilst travelling to Kazakhstan, [the customer] had a standard limit of 50MB for £51, which he opted to increase via SMS to 120MB for £120. After this, he called customer services and requested that the limit on his account be removed.

‘Our adviser followed correct procedure, warning of the charges that unlimited roaming could incur and issued advice on how to monitor spend on MyO2 and how to turn off data roaming when not in use. [The customer] went on to incur chargers of £8,500.

‘As a gesture of goodwill, on this occasion we will clear the charges incurred above his £120 spend limit. We would remind all customers to call customer services or check our webpages on using their phone abroad at least 24 hours before they travel.

‘This helps people get their phone ready for their trip, and prevent any unexpected bills when they return.’

In certain countries, the cost of roaming can be sky-high, so even relying on it for a day or two can mean a four-figure bill. 

The lesson is to always check how much charges for phoning home and using the internet abroad are – and how much you could rack up by using data unchecked. 

I don’t know your full work circumstances, but your employer should put you up in a hotel with a good WiFi connection if it is essential, or worst case scenario, agree to cover any losses you rack up if you can’t.  

How to avoid a ‘bill shock’ 

To avoid being caught out with a huge bill after using internet abroad, there are some things you should consider before travelling, according to Ofcom. 

1. Turn off data roaming: To help you manage when your phone accesses data, you can turn off data roaming on your handset. 

2. Use WiFi where available: If you want to regularly browse the web on your phone, use local Wi-Fi hotspots instead of your phone’s mobile internet connection. 

3. Avoid certain usages: If you’re not using Wi-Fi, avoid data-heavy activities such as watching videos, updating social media with photos or downloading music. If you are checking emails, avoid opening large attachments.

4. Buy a local Sim: It might be worth considering buying a Sim for the country you are visiting. This means you will only be paying local charges which will be much cheaper than on your own network. 

An Opodo customer had to wait months for a refund from the firm after not being able to fly

An Opodo customer had to wait months for a refund from the firm after not being able to fly

Hit and miss: This week’s naughty and nice list

Each week, I look at some of the companies that have fallen short of expected standards as well as those that have gone that extra mile for customers.

Miss: This week, Opodo are in the hot seat after failing to give reader, Noelene, a refund.

She said: ‘We were supposed to travel with Lufthansa to see our daughter in the US last December but when we got to the airport there had been an overnight decree that only US Citizens could travel or only people going to visit US Citizens.

‘I contacted Opodo and was told to claim the refund online, which I did. After a couple of months of hearing nothing I called them in February and was told that I would have to wait 100 days from that date for the refund to be paid back to the credit card I used for booking.

‘After the 100 days, I called Opodo again and was told that £300.72 had been refunded to me but the complete amount of £1,306.77 would be with me by the end of June. However, I still haven’t received it.’

You added your husband has recently been diagnosed with cancer and you’re in need of the money urgently.

I contacted Opodo to find out why it had failed to deliver your refund as promised.

It said that when you applied for a refund, the customer service agents at Opodo did not advise that Lufthansa’s air fare policies may have prohibited a full refund.

It added as an intermediary Opodo passes on the refund and cancellation policies of an airline and it is the customer’s responsibility to check government travel restrictions and airline’s fare policies prior to booking and travelling.

However, it admitted it could have been clearer with you through the refund process and due to the assurances given to you that a full refund would be provided and the error made on refunding a portion of the ticket price, a full refund is now being processed.

While this was certainly not plain sailing, you should have your refund this week.

Hit: In good news this week, customer Alex, has praised curly hair firm, Curls.

She said: ‘I bought a sleep cap from Curls that was really great but the elastic has already gone and now it doesn’t stay on properly.

‘I rely on reviews for these sort of products so I wrote one saying it was great but a shame the elastic went. I automatically got sent a 10 per cent off code for writing a review and then the next day, the firm emailed me saying sorry, it must be a fault.

‘Less than a day later they sent me a new one. They’re £16 so I was happy to have one replaced for free’. 

No leaving you in knots here, the issue was ironed out straight away.