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€11.721 quadrillion


In yesterday’s news, a Frenchwoman who had recently lost her job as a teaching assistant tried to cancel her mobile phone contract. She was told by the phone company that she would be required to stump up a penalty cancellation fee of … wait for it … €11,721,000,000,000,000 to close her account. For reference, that’s roughly 6,000 times France’s annual GDP.

In an epic piece of journalistic understatement, Solenne San Jose’s “alarm mounted when operators at Bouygues Telecom told her they could not amend the computer-generated statement or stop the balance from being debited from her bank account”.

In a courageous human challenge to the implacable certainty of the computer, the bill was eventually ’rounded down’ to €117.21, and the head of PR at Bouygues wisely cancelled the debt in order to salvage a tiny scrap of face and good publicity.


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