French phone company rings up a bill of more than 11 million billion euros

Jobless customer ‘nearly had a heart attack’ after receiving demand for 5,000 times gross domestic product of France

It was surely the most astronomical phone bill in history. When an unemployed childminder in south-west France received a bill for €11,721,000,000,000,000 (that’s 11.7 million billion euros – more than 5,000 times the gross domestic product of France) – it took her days of wrangling with helpline staff to stop it being debited from her bank account.

Solenne San Jose. of Pessac, a Bordeaux suburb, had just lost her job and wanted to end her phone subscription, when the final bill arrived. She told her local paper, Sud Ouest: “I nearly had a heart attack. There were so many zeros that I couldn’t even work out how much it was.”

She called Bouygues Telecom, the phone company headed by Martin Bouygues, a friend of Nicolas Sarkozy, but was told by shrugging staff there was nothing they could do. One said: “It’s calculated automatically.” Another told her she would be contacted about paying in instalments. Several calls later, an adviser admitted it was a mistake: San Jose owed €117.21. The company has apologised and let her off.

Angelique Chrisafis

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