Giffgaff’s reputation as the cuddly, consumer-friendly face of O2 has taken a massive dent. The virtual mobile operator has been smacked with a hefty fine by telecoms regulator Ofcom for overcharging its customers to the tune of £2.9m. Here we’ll reveal how giffgaff overcharged its customers and how to claim a refund if you were overcharged and haven’t already been compensated.
How did giffgaff overcharge customers?
Giffgaff’s SIM-only deals come in the form of “goodybags” – basically the bundled call minutes, text and data you get with any mobile phone package. The £15 goodybag, for example, offers 8GB of data and unlimited call minutes and texts for one month.
Separately from the goodybags, customers can also buy pre-paid top-up credit to make calls etc.
Due to what seems like a technical glitch, customers with pre-paid credit who had purchased a goodybag were being double charged. Any voice calls customers made or data they used after buying a goodybag were also being charged out out of their pre-paid credit for a short while.
According to Ofcom:
Giffgaff applied the ‘goodybag’ bundle to a customer’s account only once they ended the voice call they were on, or when they started a new data session – for example, by turning their phone off and back on again.
Given that most people leave their phone on around the clock, it seems likely that excess data charges were the big problem here, although that’s my best guess, not Ofcom’s findings.
Ofcom fined the company £1.4m for failing to accurately bill customers for the service they used.
Are you due a refund from giffgaff?
Ofcom’s press release states that giffgaff has already refunded £2.1m of the £2.9m it double charged.
However, giffgaff says it hasn’t been able to trace the customers owed the remaining £800,000. Ofcom says that “customers who consider they are still due a refund may wish to contact the company”.
Best of British doing that. For starters, you can forget about contacting the company by phone – giffgaff doesn’t do call centres. Instead, everything is directed via online support.
Even if you go straight to the complaints pages of the giffgaff website, you have to register for an account before you can message one of the company’s “agents”. And, if you make a complaint, “you’ll have a response within 5 business days” (giffgaff’s emphasis, not mine).
When a company emphasises the fact it could take a full working week to get a response to complaints as a selling point, you have to wonder how it wins so many awards.
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