Billshock 2017 – we have a winner!

The mobile world has changed a great deal in the last few years. On the whole, we’re more in control of our smartphones than ever before. We’re well aware of our spending habits, and take the necessary steps to avoid suffering unexpected bills when roaming abroad. But there are still a few of us who haven’t quite figured it all out, and it takes a strong dose of billshock to get the message across. This is what happened this week to Jamaican Finance Minister Audley Smith, much to the annoyance of his boss.

Now before anything else is said, it’s not quite as bad as it looks. After all, the Jamaican dollar is worth 0.008 of a US dollar. Nevertheless, it still must have come as a shock to discover that his phone bill for the period from March 2016 to February 2017 amounted to J$8.34 million (US$65,205). Over half that amount was racked up in October 2016, with a monthly bill of J$4.2 million (US$32,831), during which time Mr Smith was overseas on official business. And then of course, there’s this damning piece of evidence: “A query with the service provider later showed that the charges were due to data usage while roaming”.

While this has not gone down well with other residents of Jamaica, Mr Audley is far from the only offender, even in his own department (and it bears repeating that this is the FINANCE department). Two of his colleagues racked up charges totaling US$6,405 and US$2,823 respectively, while others in the government accrued US$4,927, US$1,564 and US$2,776. From these few phone bills alone, over US$81,000 has been spent that really didn’t need to be.

In other news, Telestial’s rate for making calls and/or sending texts to Jamaica from most parts of the world is just US$0.35, with data at US$0.25 per MB. Governmental ministers take note.