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Wife rings up £11,000 downloading bill

Is Friends worth £3,000 an episode?

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A wife inadvertently cost her husband £11,000 after downloading four episodes of US sitcom Friends using his laptop, according to the Telegraph newspaper.

The chap flew to Germany where his machine connected to the local provider and continued the interrupted download - only this time on international data roaming rates.

The couple aren't named in the article, which Vodafone claims "contains many factual inaccuracies", but won't deny. It seems likely the download was using Channel 4's 4OD* service which runs in the background downloading shows which have been queued, so the wife simply added the four Friends episodes to the queue and waved her husband off.

According to the Telegraph, it wasn't until the bill hit £11,000 that Vodafone contacted the chap's company to ask about potential fraud. This might seem a high figure, but fraud detection of this type still generally relies on a fax being sent by the roamed-to operator to the home operator - remarkable as that seems.

It's not the first time users have been caught out by equipment automatically making network connections when they're travelling. Apple's iPhone has a habit of checking mail automatically, which has caught out many users, and as networked applications become more common the problem is going to get worse.

Vodafone says it has to speak to the customer before telling us exactly what happened, but the story does come at a remarkably fortuitous time for the EU, and Commissioner Reding in particular. Ms Reding's deadline for operators to cut their international roaming fees is 1 July.

The self-styled champion of the people has promised that if European operators don't cut their fees by then she's going to step in and do it for them. ®

* Channel 4 have been in touch to assure us that Friends would never be shared through their 4OD service, so it must have come from somewhere else, and we're very glad to hear it.

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