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Legal spat with OpenAir gets nasty

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O2 has dismissed allegations that its billing system is up the creek and that it is overcharging customers of its mobile phone service. The claims have been made by mobile reseller OpenAir, which is locked in a legal dispute with the giant mobile operator over the cessation of a contract between the two companies.

OpenAir claims that when it was working with O2 it noticed a number of flaws in the mobilephoneco's billing system. According to The Mail on Sunday, OpenAir execs have emails from O2 in which the issue of overbilling is discussed. It appears that "free minutes" that make up some subscribers' call plans were not accounted for, resulting in subscribers being overcharged for their service.

In a press release, OpenAir said: "In one month alone, the system had identified that O2's billing errors to OpenAir's customers were running at nearly 25 per cent. This was generated on a standard tariff, common to O2 and other O2 service providers. The concern was that this error might have been reflected through the entire O2 customer base. Individual customers could not have easily worked out that they were being over-charged."

A spokesman for O2, which has more than 13m customers in the UK, denied that the company was overcharging customers; but he acknowledged that O2 was in dispute with the former service provider in which "each side has a claim against each other".

He said: "O2's billing processes are regularly audited by independent third parties and overseen by the industry regulator. O2's billing accuracy is within industry standards and there has never been any evidence or concern that millions of customers might be overcharged."

He added that the allegations concerning overbilling were "driven by an effort by OpenAir to pressurise the company as a negotiating tool in the ongoing legal dispute, in which each side has claims against the other".

Last month thousands of O2 customrs were unable to use their mobile phones, following a billing blunder. ®

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