Ofcom has issued telecoms provider O2 with a £10.5 million fine after it was found to have overcharged customers for nearly a decade.
A lengthy investigation by Ofcom found that O2 had double charged some customers who were intent on leaving its mobile services.
When customers leave a mobile provider, the service operator provides a final bill highlighting any remaining fees and charges.
According to Ofcom, over a period of eight years between 2011 and 2019, an error in the way O2 calculated these final bills meant many were billed for some charges twice.
In total, more than 250,000 customers were given incorrect statements with additional fees and charges which amounted to £40.7 million. Of these, 140,000 customers paid the charges, totalling £2.4 million.
DIGIT’S 2021 #virtualevents calendar:
📅 #MarTech Summit https://t.co/JkViHnOzbF Wed 24 Feb
📅 ScotSecure #CyberSecurity Summit https://t.co/JaD886wGh9 24/ 25 Mar
📅 #DigitalEnergy Summit https://t.co/thGSfrBqlM 22 Apr
📅 DIGIT #Leader Summit https://t.co/alC1xjRvtW 26 May pic.twitter.com/XXGqh5Braw
— DIGIT (@digitfyi) January 18, 2021
Commenting on the fine, Ofcom’s Enforcement Director Gaucho Rasmussen said: “Mobile customers trust their provider to bill them correctly and fix any errors as quickly as possible.
“But these billing issues continued for a number of years without sufficient action from O2, and thousands of customers were overcharged as a result. This is a serious breach of our rules and this fine is a reminder that we will step in if we see companies failing to protect their customers.”
O2 identified issues with its billing processes in 2011. However, Ofcom said efforts to address the problems were not successful and customers continued to be overcharged.
- What powers artificial intelligence? A guide for business
- New research to explore police-public engagement through technology
- Scottish schoolgirls showcase skills in national cybersecurity competition
Responding to the Ofcom fine announcement, a spokesperson for O2 said: “We are disappointed by this technical error and sincerely apologise to customers impacted. We identified the issue ourselves and notified our industry billing auditor.
“We have also taken proactive steps to refund all impacted customers for the extra charges they paid.”
The telecoms provider confirmed it has fully refunded customers affected by the charges, plus an additional 4% compensation. It has also changed its billing processes to prevent a similar issue from arising in the future.
For customers that have not been reached, O2 revealed that it will donate an equivalent amount to charity.