Plusnet, the ISP owned by British fixed line incumbent BT, has been fined GBP880,000 (USD1.1 million) by telecoms regulator Ofcom for continuing to bill more than a thousand ex-customers. The watchdog applied the fine after conducting an investigation which found that Plusnet had broken a ‘fundamental billing rule’ by continuing to charge a group of customers after they had cancelled their service. The fine, which must be paid within 20 working days, incorporates a 20% reduction to reflect Plusnet’s willingness to enter into a formal settlement, admit liability, and take full responsibility for the breach.
Plusnet’s billing system error resulted in cancelled lines still being recognised as ‘live’, a total of 1,025 customers who had stopped either their landline or broadband service continued to be billed, racking up in total, an overcharge of more than GBP500,000. Ofcom noted that Plusnet had made repeated attempts to refund all those affected, and 356 former subscribers were said to have been reimbursed a total of GBP212,140, which included interest at a rate of 4% for each customer. Plusnet has donated the remaining funds to a dozen local charities, in lieu of payments owed to those customers it could not contact. Meanwhile, the ISP has confirmed to Ofcom that it has taken the necessary steps to prevent any future billing errors of this kind.
Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, said of the matter: ‘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.’