When Solenne San Jose, an unemployed child minder living in south-west France, decided to end her phone subscription last month, she had no idea just how much her decision would have cost her.
Speaking to her local paper Sud Ouest, San Jose said that she “nearly had a heart attack” after she received a bill costing 12 quadrillion euros ($15.5 quadrillion) from her telecom company; though the company has since waived the bill entirely on the account of a computing error.
“There were so many zeroes I couldn’t even how out how much it was,” said the resident of Pessac – a suburb near the city of Bordeaux.
According to Sud Ouest, San Jose became further agitated after initial calls to the phone company, Bouygues Telecom, bore little results in fixing the error.
Operators at the company reportedly told San Jose, who had only recently lost her job, that they had no way of changing the computer-generated statement or even stopping the balance from being automatically debited from her bank account.
“One operator told me: 'It's automatic, there is nothing I can do.' Another simply informed me that I would be contacted to set up a repayment plan of installments," San Jose told Sud Ouest.
Eventually after several persistent phone calls, a senior management staff from Bouygues Telecom finally admitted that the bill should have added up to 117.21 euros instead.
On Thursday, the BBC reported that the company had finally apologised for the gaffe, after the case was first brought up on September 28, and the company was also waiving the entire bill together for the duress caused to San Jose.
12 quadrillion euros is equivalent to 5,872 times the GDP of France in 2011. It is also equal to more than 214 times the size of the entire world’s economic output.
Related: France Economy