O2 reportedly identified billing issues in 2011
Ofcom has fined O2 £10.5 for billing errors it made which lead to the overcharging of mobile customers who left the network.
Ofcom said it had opened an investigation in 2019 on the potential issues with the way O2 was billing customers who were leaving the network.
Between at least 2011 and 2019, an error in the way O2’s systems calculated the final bills for pay-monthly mobile customers meant people were billed for some charges twice.
The regulator says that in total, over 250,000 customers were billed for these incorrect charges amounting to a total of £40.7m in overcharging.
O2 had reportedly identified issues with its billing process in 2011, but efforts to address these problems were unsuccessful.
Ofcom says the money raised from the fine will be passed on to HM Treasury.
O2 has refunded in full the customers affected by the extra charges, plus an additional four per cent.
Any customer with evidence that they were affected is advised to contact O2 directly.
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 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 has refunded the customers who were affected, and we are satisfied the company has taken action to prevent this from happening again.”
Uswitch.com mobiles expert Ernest Doku added: For more than eight years a problem with O2’s billing system led to thousands of pay monthly customers being double-charged for certain items in their final bill.
“Being accurately billed is such a fundamental part of the agreement between customer and provider, so it’s very disappointing that a systemic problem should have been allowed to go on so long.
“Many customers spotted the error and rightly refused to pay. But not all did, and Ofcom estimates 140,000 people overpaid by a total of £2.4m.
“All of those who were not automatically refunded should now have received their money back from O2, as well as an additional 4% in compensation.
“The scale of the fine imposed on O2 shows how seriously Ofcom takes such matters, and the regulator’s decisive action sends a clear message to other mobile networks that errors with something as important as billing will not be tolerated.”
An O2 spokesperson has since responded to the fine: “As the operator proactively driving over £168m value back to our customers in the last year alone, we are disappointed by this technical error and sincerely apologise to customers impacted.
“As Ofcom have stated today, the vast majority of funds reported were not overpaid. Only 6 per cent – £2.4m – relates to money that was overpaid by customers.
“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, plus an additional 4 per cent.”