The $15-Quadrillion Phone Bill

Someone in France got an invoice saying she owed thousands of times what the entire country makes in a year. A company rep insisted there was no mistake.


We’ve heard early termination fees can be brutal, but wow. On Sept. 28, French woman Solenne San Jose got her final cell phone bill from Bouygues Telecom and was told she owed 11.7 quadrillion euros – which in dollars is about $15 quadrillion. (According to the CIA World Factbook, that’s over 776 times the United States’ entire economic output last year, $15 trillion.)

A mistake, obviously. But the company’s representatives wouldn’t immediately admit it and apologize.

According to the original article in Sud Oest (in French), San Jose said she almost had a heart attack. “There were so many zeros I couldn’t even tell how much it was” is a rough translation of her reaction.

When the woman called to dispute the charge, the first customer service rep told her the charges were automatically calculated and would be sucked out of her account, and that he “can do nothing” about it. Another said she would be contacted to set up payments.

After several more calls, which she says cost her a total of €12.50 (about $16), the company finally admitted its mistake and told her the corrected amount dropped all those zeroes: €117.21, or $151.73.

Stacy Johnson

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