Saturday 29 April 2017

O2 must pay €250,000 refund as 3,000 customers overcharged for roaming

Shane Hickey

MOBILE phone company O2 has been forced to pay out more than €250,000 to almost 3,000 customers after they were overcharged in their bills.

A "system error" at the telecoms giant resulted in the customers being billed too much for calls over a five-year period in four different countries.

Roaming charges -- which apply when a phone is used outside of the country -- for Montenegro, Haiti, Israel and Guadeloupe were incorrectly categorised by the company and charged at a higher rate. It was not until a customer spotted the error earlier this year that O2 became aware of the problem and started to inform customers.

While people unknowingly experienced the problems in the four different countries, most of the bills were hiked in Montenegro.

Mobile phone companies typically divide tariffs into different geographical zones and apply staggered rates.

However, the four countries were put into incorrect categories and as a result people were overcharged.

At present it costs €1.09 a minute for calls when O2 customers are in Montenegro, Haiti and Israel while calls from Guadeloupe are 42 cent a minute.

Prior to the change, the calls were at a higher rate.

"It is literally a case of system error, which meant that the wrong rate applied and the country was zoned in the wrong zone. It [Montenegro] was zoned in 'rest of world' rather than a 'standard' zone rate," a spokesman said.

The problem stated in August 2006 in Montenegro; in Guadeloupe in September 2007; Israel in September 2008; and Haiti in August 2008.

A customer contacted O2 alerting the company to the problem earlier this year and the firm subsequently started to credit consumers' bills.

The average credit given to each customer was €85 while the overall bill for O2 was €255,000.

Just under 3,000 customers were affected but O2 described this as a "very small number". The firm has 1.7 million customers across Ireland.

Disciplinary

"The main point is that it is a contained issue from the point of view (that) it is a very small number of customers," a spokesman said.

He said he was not aware of any disciplinary procedures that had been taken within the company as a result of the problem.

The company apologised in a statement last night.

"O2 can confirm that due to a technical issue a very small number of customers (about 3,000) were charged an incorrect rate while roaming in Montenegro, Guadeloupe, Haiti and Israel," the statement said.

"The issue has been fully resolved and all affected customers are being credited the full amount due to them. It is important to note that the issue in question related only to the four countries listed.

"Customers roaming in all other countries have been charged correctly.

"O2 sincerely apologises to the customers affected by this error for any inconvenience caused."

Irish Independent

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