Plusnet slapped with £880k fine for billing ex customers
You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave
Broadband provider Plusnet has been slapped with a £880,000 fine from UK comms watchdog Ofcom for continuing to bill former customers.
More than 1,000 ex-customers were overcharged £500,000 by BT-owned Plusnet, after it continued to bill for landline and broadband services that had been cancelled.
The penalty is the result of an investigation opened last May and was caused by an error in Plusnet’s billing system meaning cancelled lines were still recognised as "live".
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.”
Earlier this year EE was slapped with a £2.7m fine for overcharging tens of thousands of customers by Ofcom, while Vodafone was handed a record £4.6m penalty in October for mis-selling to customers and inaccurate billing.
Plusnet has made repeated attempts to refund all affected ex-customers by letter and by phone. It has refunded 356 customers a total of £212,140, which included interest at a rate of 4 per cent for each customer. The provider has donated the remaining funds to a dozen local charities, in lieu of payments owed to customers whom it could not contact.
It has also promised to take steps to prevent any future billing errors of this kind.
Ofcom reduced the penalty by 20 per cent, as a result of Plusnet's willingness to enter into a formal settlement. Plusnet said it admits and takes full responsibility for the breach of Ofcom’s billing rule.
BT and Plusnet have repeatedly topped Ofcom's quarterly whinge list for the most complained-about broadband providers.
A Plusnet spokeswoman said: “We are very sorry and would like to apologise to the 1,025 customers affected. We reported this ourselves to Ofcom, and made every effort to contact these customers to arrange a full refund before the investigation started. We would also like to reassure all customers this was an isolated historic issue and we have implemented a number of new robust measures to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”®