A teen who ran-up a £1,158 phone bill voting on TV show I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! has had to forfeit a chunk of her Christmas money to help pay the cost.
College student Nicole Hassall was unaware she was incurring charges when she repeatedly rang the ITV show’s voting line on her mobile with the enormous bill only becoming apparent when her telephone operator sent her mother a warning by text message.
The 18-year-old’s mother, Eileen Hassall, who is also the bill-payer, said she wanted people to be aware how quickly charges can build up, after now facing the prospect of paying a huge bill at Christmas time.
Meanwhile, mobile phone company Orange said it would halve the bill as a gesture of goodwill.
The company’s records indicate Nicole made calls continuously over a six-hour period, after she watched Wednesday’s (December 4) episode with her mother at home.
Mrs Hassall said her daughter had, unknown to her, been ringing from her bedroom after the programme finished to cast repeated votes for Lucy Pargeter, who had swapped her usual role as Chas Dingle in ITV’s Emmerdale soap for the heat and humidity of the jungle.
Nicole’s mother, who is also an avid watcher of the show, said: “She said she had made a couple of calls over a few hours.”
Despite Nicole’s calls to the premium rate line, it was Kian Egan of boyband Westlife who was crowned King of The Jungle during Sunday’s final, with Ms Pargeter finishing in third place after leaving the show on Saturday (December 7).
In any case, her shocked mother is now unhappy about having to pay even the reduced amount of about £690.
Mrs Hassall believes that, with an ordinary monthly contract bill of just £21 a month, Orange should have acted sooner to warn her costs were spiralling out of control.
“They texted me later that night saying ‘ring urgently’ and it was £350, and then it kept going up until they gave me the final bill of £1,158,” said the 62-year-old, of Abbey Hulton, near Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.
“I felt sick. It’s never happened before, and Nicole just thought she was using up the minutes she gets on her contract.
“She didn’t know what she had done – she’s upset about it, we both are.”
According to Mrs Hassall, Orange eventually blocked her daughter’s mobile phone altogether.
She said Nicole, who is studying animal care at college, had since offered to pay her mother £250 of money given to her by her father for Christmas to help pay the bill.
However, Mrs Hassall says she will be waiting for the itemised bill which is due to arrive on Boxing Day before paying a penny.
An Orange spokesperson said: “We sympathise with Ms Hassall and have offered a substantial reduction on her bill as a gesture of goodwill.
“To help customers avoid high charges from voting lines we terminated each of the calls after six seconds.
“However, as the customer in this instance continued to call the number for several hours additional charges were incurred.”
The company also offers downloadable apps and runs an online bill-checker for parents concerned about their children’s mobile use, also allowing an option where charges can be capped on a handset.