I KNEW THERE WAS A PROBLEM when a polite O2 employee rang me in hushed tones about my monthly phone bill (see above for the month of July). The previous August, I had pressed up towards EUR 250 in charges but that happened while I roamed in the States. Most of the EUR 378 that my phone sucked down in charges this past July happened while commuting 14 miles between Cashel and Clonmel in County Tipperary. I've never used my phone for tethering but I'm getting charged as though I do. I pay to use an O2 dongle and I use that when connecting my laptop to the internet. Several things happened to me that bear repeating.
1. On several drives around Ireland, my Android phone accessed the Open.Internet data port without my approval. This probably happened with a rogue application that was trying to pull advertisements onto a screen. I've deleted a group of applications without noting what I've reviewed and discarded.
2. When I put my O2 SIM into an old Nokia phone, I failed to check the legacy data settings. On two of those older phones, the data access point was set to Open.Internet instead of the APN called Internet. Consequently, I got charged one euro for every megabyte of downloaded content. Translated, that means one business podcast from John Collins cost me more than EUR 20 in listening pleasure. O2 got that money, not Collins the journalist.
3. Even though I only wanted to download a maximum of two gigabytes of data from the O2 network every month, O2 tells me there's no way their network can constrain my data usage to the usage level on my contract. However, they are able to constrain me when I'm roaming so I don't understand why it's not possible while I use my phone in Ireland.
4. When I put my SIM into a friend's phone, the O2 network was automatically recognised and data started flowing onto the friend's handset in accordance to the handset's settings. That means I paid dearly for some YouTube and music tracks (one euro a megabyte) even though I neither saw nor listened to the content.
I don't have the money to pay what I owe to O2-Ireland in one easy swipe of my credit card unless I take it out of my Christmas budget. Since I'm unwilling to do that, I'm currently unable to make calls, send texts, browse the web or handle e-mail with my phones during most of the day. "That's normal procedure," the nice call centre people tell me. The only reason I'm not cut off from O2 entirely is I'm paying my bill down my EUR 12 a week. I've also negotiated EUR 57 off my bill. If I get another EUR 100 of love from O2-Ireland and I hold to my EUR 12 weekly paybacks, I should be back to normal operations before Christmas. Otherwise, I'll be the silent one into Valentine's Day.
In the meantime, if you need to reach me, don't leave a voice mail. I can't access that either.