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We are indebted to The Mirror for the latest example of mobile data charging madness, this time in England.

Ian Simpson, a factory worker from Darlington, downloaded TV programmes onto his laptop using his mobile phone as a modem - and racked up charges of £27,322 in just one month. He says he may go bankrupt unless Vodafone "takes a sensible approach" to his bill.

Simpson thought he had an all-you can eat deal for unlimited web use and "probably" downloaded 20-30 TV shows and four albums. But his £41.50 per month contract maxed out at 120 megabytes of downloads per month, enough for most users, Vodafone says. "Few customers exceed the fair usage. But it seems clear Ian has run up these charges legitimately," a spokesman told The Mirror.

So Simpson was on the wrong package and cannot be accused of acting intelligently in this matter. But his phone bill illustrates the outrageous expense of mobile data - downloads were priced at up to £18 per minute.

Warning bells should have sounded sooner at Vodafone, which cut Simpson off four weeks into his download spree. In its defence, Voda told The Mirror that "the intensity of Ian's downloading was such that by the time our systems flagged anything up he had already racked up a massive bill".

The company will "try to come to some sympathetic arrangement" with Simpson. And it advises its customers to "never use a mobile as a modem".

This month, a Canadian man ran up an $85,000 bill, for also using his mobe as a PC modem. Bell Canada showed mercy and reduced charges to $3,243, which it based on "the best data plan available for using cellphones as a modem". ®

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