UK Reg Investigates Plusnet for Overcharging

The UK has regulations that are supposed to prevent telcos from overcharging customers. Sometimes I hear news that suggests these regulations serve an actual purpose. Then I remember that customers of Vodafone UK generated record levels of complaints but the mobile giant still did not get punished for overbilling. And that UK regulator Ofcom never hears about overcharging errors until years after they occurred. And they only hear about them because the telco admitted to making mistakes. The most recent example is Plusnet, which is going to be investigated for overcharging its customers between 2008 and 2015. That will come as a great relief to anyone who received an inflated bill 8 years ago, and has been patiently waiting for a refund…

As Ofcom helpfully points out, their sophisticated audit regime has learned the following:

Plusnet has provided information indicating that it may have charged some customers for a telephone or broadband service that was not live for a period of time between 2008 and 2015. Ofcom has therefore decided to open an investigation that will examine whether there are reasonable grounds to believe Plusnet has failed to comply with its obligations under GC 11.

GC 11 is the general condition that says UK telcos cannot overcharge. So any telco which overcharges is non-compliant, even if they only overcharged a little. So what this statement really tells us is that:

  • the information obtained from Plusnet is so minimal that the regulator still does not know if customers were overcharged, but there must be some grounds to suspect they were; and
  • it will take a while for the regulator to work out if these grounds are reasonable evidence of overcharging or not.

With such vigorous consumer champions on the case we can all sleep safely, knowing that if anything is wrong with the bills we receive today then somebody in the regulator may be told about it by the year 2024, and that person may conclude an actual mistake was made, after which time they will decide to do nothing about it. ***Phew. What a relief.***

Plusnet is an ISP that supplies broadband, landline and digital television. It was acquired by BT Group in 2007, but is run as a separate business.

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is the Editor of Commsrisk. Look here for more about the history of Commsrisk and the role played by Eric.

Eric is also the Chief Executive of the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), a global association of professionals working in risk management and business assurance for communications providers.

Previously Eric was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and he has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and other telcos. He was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.