A mobile phone user received a £1,200 (€1,600) phone bill after using emojis in her text messages.
Paula Cochrane told the Daily Record: “I am raging. I have never heard of this before and I’ve had a mobile phone for years. Even the staff at my local EE shop were shocked when I told them. They knew nothing about it."
“The first bill in November was for £100.92 but I put it down to me using the phone more than usual. The package I’m on has unlimited texts so I thought I’d just used up more minutes without realising it. It was a new phone after all.”
She called EE to complain and was horrified when they said her December bill was £449.
The operator told her there were picture messages attached to the texts sent: "But I knew that wasn’t right as I didn’t have many pictures on the phone and certainly wasn’t sending them as texts,” Ms Cochrane said.
“The adviser explained that the charges were for emoticons, the Japanese smiley face symbols. I couldn’t believe it.
“Do EE really think I’d run up these bills if I knew the cost? It’s daylight robbery.The smiley faces are on the phone toolbar – they are not an app or a download. I want to warn others.
“I feel violated that EE have withdrawn more than £1,000 from my account for a £30.99-a-month contract. It’s totally unacceptable.
EE cut the bill by £100 as a gesture of goodwill.
The mobile phone operator told the BBC: “Ms Cochrane incurred a series of charges for emojis which were sent in the form of MMS messages and fall outside of her monthly tariff.
“There are a number of factors which can affect whether customers are charged for sending an emoji.
"In this case it was caused by the settings on her handset and so this is a manufacturer – rather than a network – issue. We offered to add a credit to her account but this was refused.”
An Ofcom spokesman told The Independent: "We expect operators to make clear how much MMS messages cost under your tariff, and when those charges would apply.
“Mobile network providers determine how different messages are charged, and Ofcom has clear rules in place to ensure that prices are transparent.”
Ofcom's “Incidence of Unexpectedly High Bills” report, published in September last year, found that 4 per cent of mobile users reported having received an unexpectedly high bill for “sending picture messages/MMS not included in the monthly text allowance”.
The most frequent reasons for "phone-bill shock" were calls to non-geographical numbers (15 per cent) and calling numbers not included in monthly call allowance (13 per cent).
The news comes in the same week that research in the US found emoji users had more sex.