In France it can difficult for customers to disentangle themselves from utility contracts. For Solenne San Jose, a woman from near Bordeaux in south west France, whose phone contract was with Bouygues Telecom, one of France’s biggest telecoms companies, she really could not have anticipated just how costly cancellation would be.
Solenne contacted the phone company to cancel her contract after losing her job. Bouygues explained that since the contract was being cancelled early, there would be a cancellation fee, reports the Huffington Post
. The phone company told her the exact amount would be included in a final bill to be mailed to the customer.
So far all well and good, but Solenne got the shock of her life when the final tally from Bouygues Telecom arrived. The phone company was demanding a mind boggling €11,721,000,000,000,000 (only $15,159,302,965,751,138 in US dollars).
Oh, and this sum would be taken out of Solenne’s bank account in accordance with her direct debit instructions.
Speaking to French newspaper Sud-Ouest
, Solenne said, “‘I almost had a cardiac arrest! There were so many zeros I could not even work out how much it was.’
Realising there must have been a mistake in the sums, Solenne contact the phone company to query the bill. Bouygues Telecom told her they couldn’t change the charges and that she was liable for the full amount, insisting it would automatically be withdrawn from her bank account, reports the Daily Mail
Solenne continued, ‘When I explained that it was obviously a mistake, they replied that these amounts were calculated automatically and withdrawals would begin. One operator told me: "It's automatic. There is nothing I can do.” Another simply informed me that I would be contacted to set up a re-payment plan of instalments.'
For the mathematically challenged, Bouygues Telecom were demanding almost 12 Quadrillion Euros, a quadrillion being the number one followed by 15 zeros. It equates to one thousand million million.
Solenne was being asked to pay almost 6000 times the entire annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of France. As Solenne understated it herself, it would have taken her generations to repay.
Happily, Solenne won’t have a millstone of debt weighing her down. Bouygues Telecom eventually admitted that something wasn’t quite right. The bill ought to have amounted to €117.21. As a goodwill gesture the phone company waived payment.