Telecoms provider du has waived the phone bills of a number of holidaymakers who returned to find they had charges totalling tens of thousands of dirhams.
The company cancelled the charges of at least two customers The National spoke to in recent days for Dh6,000 and Dh30,000 respectively, citing a glitch in both instances.
Many more customers took to social media to say they arrived back in the UAE after the Christmas period with bills of between Dh7,000 and Dh15,000.
In each case they claimed they used their UAE sim card for calls or data for a matter of minutes, though that could not be verified.
But regulations set out by the Telecommunications Regulatory Agency in 2016 ensure that du and Etisalat customers' use of data must be capped to prevent 'bill shock'. That does not extend to cellular mobile phone calls. Customers are generally encouraged to set an overspend limit themselves, for example, of Dh100.
Georgina Evans, 25, arrived in the UAE on Sunday night after a five-day trip to the UK to discover du had cut her phone off as the result of what she discovered was a Dh30,000 bill.
"My phone was saying it was out of service and that my bill was Dh0.00, so I thought it was telling me that I hadn't gone over [my monthly bill charge]," Ms Evans told The National.
“Then I called du and the woman on the phone said I had been cut off because I owed Dh30,000. I was like, ‘what?’. I felt sick.”
Ms Evans said she ran up the charge, thought to be for data use, because she switched her phone on two or three times for five or 10 minutes at the most each time.
After phoning du to challenge the charge, she was initially told she could not raise an official complaint until her next bill was generated.
Du has since cancelled the charge, blaming it on an online glitch in a phone call, she said.
Emma Harvey, 43, also from the UK, had her phone cut off as a result of a bill for more than Dh6,000, which she claims was generated while she was using free wifi during a flight to the UK and her phone’s data connection was disabled.
“I have lived in Dubai for over 10 years. I travel and I know how phones work when I go overseas, so I am always very vigilant in making sure my phone isn’t connected to data,” said Ms Harvey.
She phoned the telecoms company for an explanation and was told, like Ms Evans, that she could not be given any more information about the charge or challenge it until the bill is generated in January.
So she visited a du shop with a friend and a manager there called the billing team on Skype, who then showed her details of the charges.
“It showed that within the space of about six minutes, Dh6,337 had been charged to my mobile phone account. I was just over half way to the UK during the same period,” she said.
Efforts to cancel the charge were initially unsuccessful but du has now told Ms Harvey the charge will be waived when her next bill is generated.
A number of du customers on Facebook said they had been cut off and worry it is because they have racked up substantial bills.
“This was me,” one wrote.
“We’re still in the UK, and they’ve said we can’t do anything until [January] 6th, which is when our bill is due. Seems it’s happened to a lot of people!!!!”
Another said he had "returned from the UK with a 5000 aed bill which has lead to my mobile services being disconnected. I am in exactly the same position where I cannot raise a complaint until the next bill is issued".
Another Facebook user said: "I have had the same - arriving in UK from Dubai to find my service disconnected due to a whopping and unexplainable Dh7,000 charge emerging overnight. The du staff can't explain what's gone on until the generation of the next invoice."
Du confirmed that the cases of Ms Evans and Ms Harvey have been resolved but would not comment further.
A call centre representative further explained that bill caps are imposed on postpaid account holders once they reached a certain credit limit, which was decided by a “number of factors” and varies between customers.