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.
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.