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Thousands of O2 punters have been unable to use their mobile phones following a billing blunder by the mobilephoneco.

More than 8,000 punters were cut off earlier this week after O2 barred access to the phones. A spokesman for the company explained that the phones had been "temporarily barred in error" following the migration of the punters onto a new customer management system.

Although O2 - which has more than 13m users in the UK - has been shunting punters across to this new platform for the last nine months, this is the first time customers have been locked out, said the company.

Those hit received text/voice messages warning them that their accounts were overdue and that failure to cough up would lead to "service restrictions". When one of those caught up in the billing blunder contacted O2 he was told to ignore the message since it was a known problem. The next day his phone was cut off.

An O2 spokesman apologised for the error before adding that those cut off are being reconnected. ®

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