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UPD Ofcom UK Finds Broadband ISP Plusnet May Have Botched its Bills

Monday, November 28th, 2016 (11:27 am) - Score 1,370

A probe by telecoms industry regulator Ofcom has today found “reasonable grounds to believe” that Plusnet may have continued to incorrectly bill customers of their fixed line broadband and phone services between 7th March 2008 and 3rd September 2015, even after they left.

The probe, which began in May 2016 (here), set out to examine whether or not the ISP had failed to comply with its obligations under General Condition 11 (specifically GC11.1), such as by potentially charging for a phone and broadband service that “was not live for a period of time between 2008 and 2015“.

GC11.1 states: “The Communications Provider shall not render any Bill to an End-User in respect of the provision of any Public Electronic Communications Services unless every amount stated in that Bill represents and does not exceed the true extent of any such service actually provided to the End-User in question.”

Ofcom Statement

Ofcom has reasonable grounds to believe that Plusnet contravened GC 11.1 by rendering bills to end-users in respect of broadband and telephony services for amounts that did not represent and exceeded the true extent of the service actually provided to them. Plusnet had continued to bill certain end-users for broadband and telephony service after their service had been cancelled.

At this point it’s very important to highlight that Plusnet initiated the investigation itself, as opposed to waiting for Ofcom to uncover it through customer complaints. Very few operators have been quite that open and honest with the regulator in this way, so credit where credit is due.

A Spokesperson for Plusnet told ISPreview.co.uk:

“We would like to apologise to our customers. This is a historic issue of a very small number of our customers being overcharged. We reported it to Ofcom and contacted all affected customers so we could arrange a full refund, before the investigation had begun. A number of new robust measures have been implemented to prevent this from happening again.”

Plusnet will now have a chance make representations to Ofcom on their preliminary ruling and a final verdict should follow soon. We wouldn’t be at all surprised if Ofcom lets Plusnet off without a big fine, especially given their honest approach, although much will depend upon the scale of the problem.

At the very least Plusnet may need to reimburse the affected customers and introduce some improvements to their billing system, which they might have already done.

UPDATE 1:52pm

Added a comment from Plusnet above.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
14 Responses
  1. john says:

    Good honest broadband my arse!

    1. Data Analysis says:

      LOL yes the chosen image on all these Plusnet stories and their slogan is becoming a bit embarrassing for them. Or rather it should be.

  2. Olly says:

    Yep happened to me, and caused bank charges as a result. They did pay it back but I had to call them when I noticed. And again when they took the next payment out as well.

  3. John Elvin says:

    It’s been known for years that there are serious deficiencies with the Plusnet billing system and for years Plusnet have been promising a new system that never materialises. In the rush to the bottom with their prices to compete with the likes of TalkTalk many other aspects of the Plusnet service have gone in the same direction.

    See https://community.plus.net/t5/Plusnet-Feedback/Why-I-have-left-Plusnet/td-p/1389353

  4. John Elvin says:

    Afterthought: I wonder if their coming clean may have been related to a user telling them they were going to complain to OFCOM?

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      It takes a lot more than one complaint to Ofcom for the regulator to take action. Usually several hundred about the same exact issue, but I’m not quite sure where they draw the line.

    2. john says:

      Even so not good for PR

  5. Bob2002 says:

    Funny this should crop up …

    I left Plusnet in August for Sky, turns out Plusnet were charging me £22/month – despite not having any active product with them – since that time. Went to live chat and they apologised and agreed a refund, which will take 10-14 days apparently. That seems a very long time to simply refund money they should never have taken in the first place.

    1. Mike C says:

      It’s the way their billing systems work, usually you’d never receive a refund the same day from any provider.

  6. Vince says:

    “Very few operators have been quite that open and honest with the regulator in this way, so credit where credit is due.”

    …you mean credit to the customer is due 🙂

  7. Mark says:

    “Very few operators have been quite that open and honest with the regulator in this way, so credit where credit is due.”

    But then very few operators have had to hold their hands up with quite the monotonous regularity of plusnet over the last decade; everything from Tiscali to email accounts lost en masse to data breaches that supposedly didn’t happen despite the evidence to name but three.

    Coming clean shows less about honesty than that they learned at least one thing from their ample experience of getting it wrong.

    1. john says:

      “to data breaches that supposedly didn’t happen despite the evidence to name but three”

      I can confirm they did – I was one of the poor complaints folks who had to sort it out and stopped PN from being sued!

  8. John M says:

    Broadband a joke but worse still the webmail is a nonentity. It is a “free service” therefore if there is a problem Plus net Don’t want to know. The instant chat line took 56 minutes to connect, didn’t “Do me Proud” once again.

  9. George M says:

    This is not historic, the Plusnet community forums show new people each week complaining about being charged after they have left.

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