It took me an age to track down the guilty calls but, finally, after negotiating one of the most appallingly badly designed websites I've ever seen, which is saying something in Italy, I found that the calls (6) weren't to sexy chatlines at all, but to a flat in Paris. And then I remembered a friend of mine calling her daughter, who lives in Paris, on the very days the calls were made. I pay a fixed monthly charge for calls abroad, which means I can natter carelessly to my family and friends in England, or anywhere in Europe, when I should be working. So why should these calls have cost so much? Cue call centre.
Two hours later, I discover that, as a result of a decree issued by the Italian Telecommunications Authority some time ago to protect people from unwittingly making expensive calls via the Antilles or wherever, calls with certain prefixes, including the prefix 00339, are considered 'highly critical' and charged accordingly. I don't know what they mean by 'highly critical', but I do know that, whatever it is, it doesn't apply to Lisa's perfectly harmless home line. Now, I didn't do law at university, but basic logic tells me that a decree designed to protect people from being conned out of large sums of money shouldn't have the side-effect of dramatically increasing the cost of phone calls to private landlines in a neighbouring European country, when those calls are already covered by a fixed charge. Simple, no? Apparently not.
The helpful (honestly) person at the call centre suggested I contest the charges, and that's what I intend to do. I'll also be putting in a bill for the earnings lost as a result of the hours wasted on a website that ought to be closed down and a helpline designed to reduce even the most patient of men (me) to a state of inchoate rage. And in the meantime my credit card will have paid the bill.