When O2 went down: Chaos, compensation and calls to allow roaming

12 December 2018   By Jo Bailey

As the chaos of O2's major network outage subside, we look at compensation and other issues raised by the service failure.

Millions of customers of O2 were left high and dry this week after the network failed to 'make it right'. As many as 32 million users were hit by a software error that caused them to lose the ability to call, text or access the internet last Thursday and Friday.

As well as customers of O2, users of Tesco Mobile, GiffGaff, Lycamobile and Sky Mobile were also affected, as these services piggyback on the O2 network.

It wasn't just handsets affected either. The location systems on board all 8,500 London buses became inoperable, as well as technology used by companies such as Deliveroo.

The fallout from this outage has been major, with calls for compensation to be paid to affected customers and businesses, as well as the ability to roam to different networks in the future.

O2 themselves will be seeking compensation from technology group Ericsson, as they say that the root of the fault lay with them.

o2 store front
Credit: Ink Drop/Shutterstock.com

Should 'internal roaming' be allowed?

Grant Shapps MP, chair of the British Infrastructure Group, called for the government to allow users to switch to another network if theirs was to go down.

Known as 'internal roaming', this is something that has been suggested by both Ofcom and a government advisory group in relation to improving mobile access across the UK.

Shapps said that there were no real barriers to introducing this type of roaming, and that the only reason it hasn't happened so far was because operators were resistant.

He said that, "Ministers should order an immediate investigation into network sharing in emergencies", and said it was not acceptable to have a major service outage with no back up plan.

'Millions' in compensation for O2

Chief Executive of O2, Mark Evans, will be meeting with executives from Swedish tech firm Ericsson in the coming days, to discuss what went wrong and to see compensation for the outage.

Reports have been made that the network operator is in line for as much as £100m in compensation, although details are clearly not yet worked out.

The outage is said to have been caused by an out of date software license in the Ericsson system. O2 recently upgraded to the latest version of the system, but because a license had expired, it brought down parts of their series.

Affected? Your rights to compensation

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, customers should expect a service that they've paid for to be carried out with skill and care. No matter whether the route cause of the issue was with Ericsson or O2, the network operator still needs to be held to account.

O2 have offered to pay their monthly contract customers and mobile broadband customers the equivalent of two days' worth of charges. Pay As You Go customers will receive a 10% credit when they top up in the new year.

Users have hit out at O2, climbing this level of compensation is a 'pittance'. A customer on a £13 a month contract would receive only 87p. Some have suggested O2 donate the entire amount to charity instead.

However, customers may also be able to claim some out of pocket expenses as a result of the service failure, if they are able to prove it.

For example, if bank charges were accrued due to an inability to move money, or they had to pay to use a payphone or Wi-Fi hotspot, these costs could be reimbursed if there is evidence to prove them.

Customers are being encouraged to keep receipts, transcripts of conversations and any other evidence which would validate a loss they have incurred.

However, with so many customers and businesses affected, it's likely to take some time before O2 settle all the claims they will receive over the coming weeks.

From next year, broadband providers will pay automatic compensation if their service goes down. However, mobile phone operators are yet to be signed up to such an agreement.

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