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German boy racks up over €12,000 in roaming charges on cruise ship

After embarking on a cruise with his family to Norway, a boy from Berlin returned home to an unwelcome bill amounting to €12,000, German media reported on Wednesday.

German boy racks up over €12,000 in roaming charges on cruise ship
Archive photo of a Color Line cruise ship at Kiel harbour. Photo: DPA

The 12-year-old had used his phone to unwind and watch a few videos while at sea between Germany’s northern city of Kiel and Oslo.

Shortly after he came home from vacation, a hefty bill from the family’s telecommunications provider arrived. It stated that about €12,500 was due for usage of just under 500 megabytes of data while at sea.

The boy apparently connected to the cruise ship’s own phone network which connects to the internet via satellite, said Dirk Hundertmark, managing director of Norwegian cruise operator Color Line.

The network is only really intended to be used by the ship’s crew to communicate with other vessels, even though anyone can join it. Similar to aircraft, high roaming charges apply when using such networks.

Cellular phone networks in Germany can charge as much as €30 per megabyte of data downloaded through a satellite connection. At sea, the EU’s abolition of roaming charges does not apply.

SEE ALSO: Germany’s slow internet – only fraction of government funding has been spent

Color Line has said that it tries to inform passengers on its website about possible roaming costs. The cruise line operator also offers wifi packages on board for certain fees.

“This is really an extreme case that the family has experienced,” said Hundertmark.

It is very rare that passengers dial into the satellite network unnoticed, the managing director added, stating that they would be informed beforehand from their provider via SMS about possible costs.

As a gesture of goodwill, the phone network has agreed to reduce the family's bill to €5,000, reported broadcaster NDR.

But the Berlin-based family has since employed a lawyer in an attempt to take action against a bill which they consider to be “immoral.”

FOR MEMBERS: How Germany plans to zoom out of the digital slow lane (and why it could struggle)

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Germany’s Scheffelbrücke: Everything you need to know about the ‘world’s most expensive bridge’

Germany's Scheffelbrücke might not seem like much to look at, but by some accounts it is the most expensive bridge in the world. Here’s what you need to know.

Germany's Scheffelbrücke: Everything you need to know about the ‘world’s most expensive bridge’
The Scheffelbrücke in Baden-Württemburg isn't known for its astounding beauty or engineering prowess - but it is known for its price tag. Photo: Heinz Seehagel, Creative Commons.

If you’re travelling near the Swiss border, you might come across the Scheffelbrücke – a quiet, two-lane bridge over the Radolfzeller Aach in Baden-Württemburg. 

By bridge standards, the 20-metre concrete construction seems relatively unremarkable – until you take a look at the engraved sign on the side which quotes the price tag. 

A sign on the bridge references the incredible price of the bridge: 1,520,940,901,926,024 Deutschmarks. 

That’s 1,500 trillion marks. 

Why is the Scheffelbrücke Germany’s most expensive bridge – and why is it so drab?

While Germany has the money and the landscape to have some expensive bridges, that over the Aach hardly rivals the Golden Gate, London Bridge or Sydney Harbour for elegance or ingenuity. 

The bridge, completed in 1923, takes the name of Joseph Victor von Scheffel, a German writer who will forever be associated with the glorified concrete slab. 

While one might suspect pork barrelling or crafty accounting as a reason for the astonishing cost – or perhaps a trick to reel in the tourists to the otherwise unassuming village of Singen – the cost is in fact real.

The high price is a consequence of the out of control post-World War One inflation which hit Germany, where money almost completely lost its value. 

A sign for the bridge reveals its extortionate building costs. Photo: Heinz Seehagel, Creative Commons.

Local authorities, wanting to boost the economy, signed off on the bridge as an infrastructure project. 

As a consequence, some local workers presumably became millionaires as a consequence – although there was perhaps little meaning to the idea of being a millionaire when a billion would only buy you a concrete bridge. 

Fortunately, Germany was able to bring inflation under control and wheelbarrows full of money were no longer required to purchase basic things.

And almost a century later, when not taking wacky inflation into account, Germany’s ‘most expensive bridge in the world’ no longer has that title. 

That goes to the Oakland Bay Bridge in San Francisco (no, not the Golden Gate but the other one), which cost 6.3 billion US dollars – or roughly 5.2 billion euro  – to build. 

The Oakland Bay Bridge however goes for eight kilometres and possesses some of the aesthetic qualities which one would expect from the most expensive bridge in the world. 

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