Kim Beveridge told the ABC that the killer phone bill came as the result of his mobile phone being stolen during a work trip to Spain in 2014.
In the space of just 20 hours between the phone being stolen and him reporting the loss to his phone provider TeleChoice, close to 4,500 calls had made using his sim card. He then received a bill from TeleChoice totalling $191,456.59.
“They had just notified me that they detected some suspect calls and suspect behaviour on my account, so they had blocked the account at that point,” Mr Beveridge told the ABC.
Despite this, the phone company continued to hold him responsible for all calls, texts and roaming charges made up until that point.
The dispute went to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, which reportedly declined to intervene because the amount was above $50,000, before going to county court and then the Victorian Supreme Court, both of which found in Mr Beveridge’s favour.
The shocking case is becoming the face of growing consumer and SME dissatisfaction with telco companies for both phone and internet services.
“The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman has experienced an increase in complaints for phone and internet services,” said Ombudsman Judi Jones.
The ombudsman received a total of 65,970 complaints between 1 July and 31 December 2016 (the latest period for which figures are available at the time of writing).
Internet services accounted for the largest portion of complaints, totalling 24,641. This was a staggering 53.6 per cent higher than the corresponding period a year earlier.
Complaints about mobile phones surged by 18.8 per cent over the same period, while those relating to landlines increased by close to a third (32 per cent).