Plusnet gets a “minus” – and a big fine – for incorrect billing

Plusnet has become the latest telecom provider to be fined by the regulator Ofcom. The broadband and phone provider, owned by BT, has been fined £880,000 for billing former customers. It is the third provider in less than 6 months to be fined by Ofcom.

In October 2016 Vodafone was fined £4.6m for breaches of consumer protection laws and in January 2017 EE was fined approximately £2.7m for incorrect billing.

Plusnet faces a fine of £880,000 imposed by Ofcom for continuing to bill more than a thousand former customers for landline and broadband services. The case involves more than 1,000 ex-customers who were overcharged a total of more than £500,000.

Ofcom says in its press release:

“The penalty is the result of an investigation, which found that the telecoms company broke a fundamental billing rule by continuing to charge a group of customers for landline or broadband, after they had cancelled their service.

Once a customer cancels his or her home phone or broadband service, providers’ billing systems must recognise that the line is ‘ceased’. In this case, an error in Plusnet’s billing system meant that cancelled lines were still recognised as ‘live’.As a result, 1,025 customers who had cancelled either their landline or broadband service continued to be billed, meaning they were overcharged by more than £500,000 in total.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, said: “There can be no margin for error, and no excuses, when it comes to billing customers correctly.”

“This fine should serve as a reminder to telecoms companies that they must adhere to Ofcom’s billing rules at all times, or face the consequences.””

Ofcom says that Plusnet has attempted to refund all affected ex-customers. It has so far refunded 356 customers a total of £212,140, which included interest at a rate of 4% for each customer. Any remaining money, from former customers who could not be reached, has been donated to a dozen local charities. Plusnet has also clarified to Ofcom the steps it has taken to prevent any future billing errors of this kind.

Ofcom says that the fine, which must be paid to Ofcom within 20 working days, will be passed on to HM Treasury.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, telecoms really are the worst sector for customer service. It really needs a company to pull out all the stops and do things differently, risk not making any money for a while and then watch everyone flock to them for the customer service.

Useful information
Ofcom does not investigate individual claims. If you have a complaint about a telecom provider whether broadband, landline or mobile, see All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers which provides information and how to complain effectively to telecom providers.

See How to Complain; The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! for tips, advice, consumer laws and templates for complaining effectively.

Once Upon a Parking Ticket…

Right, enough of the media shenanigans, that’s all over now. Back to the real world and time for a story.

Once upon a time, a Christmas time in fact, I got a parking ticket. I don’t like getting them. I caught the parking warden writing the ticket. I told him that I had had to queue for a ticket and look it was in my hand (along with rather a large bag of shopping it has to be said!) The warden took a photo and told me that he would make a note of it and I should appeal. So I did.

parking ticketsI appealed. I got no response. Now, if you have been following this blog for a bit you know I don’t like that. I don’t like it all. So… I…. complained!

I emailed Waltham Forest and said “Oi, I’ve appealed why haven’t I heard from you? It’s past the time you should have responded by.” Might not have used those quite those words…

Three days later I received a letter telling me that because I hadn’t paid the fine it was going up to £60. Oh no it wasn’t! (Well it is pantomime time!) So, I wrote again telling them to have the courtesy of responding and  to look through the correspondence!

Got an auto response. Sigh. So emailed again and started to pull out some new weaponry.  Emailed the CEO. Always a good one – speeds things up somewhat! Threatened to tell portfolio holders in the council. Might actually have just done that… Guess what happened? Immediate right off payment.

Now the lesson for you here is this. Even if it is possible that it has been issued correctly, it is quite possible that the powers that be won’t process your appeal properly, which is what happened here. The appeal may or may not have been upheld, but they were out of time for responding to my appeal and therefore in breach of process so they had no option but to throw out the charge.

The End.

So incompetence. It’s everywhere. Fight, fight, fight it! Anyone else got a good parking ticket story? There’s some more info and help about appealing here and more details about how to appeal and what for plus templates etc. in the book.