Giffgaff fined £1.4m for overcharging customers

Ofcom has today fined the mobile company Giffgaff £1.4m, for overcharging millions of customers.

The fine follows an Ofcom investigation. We found that an error in Giffgaff’s billing system led to around 2.6 million customers being overcharged up to a total of almost £2.9m.

Giffgaff is owned by Telefónica UK, which trades as mobile network O2. Giffgaff uses O2’s network to provide mobile services to its customers.

Gaucho Rasmussen, Ofcom’s Director of Investigations and Enforcement, said: “Getting bills right is a basic duty for every phone company. But Giffgaff made unacceptable mistakes, leaving millions of customers out of pocket.

“This fine should serve as a warning to all communications providers: if they get bills wrong, we’ll step in to protect customers.”

Fine and customer refunds
Giffgaff has already refunded around £2.1m to affected customers. In lieu of those customers it has not been able to trace and refund, it has donated the money to charity. Customers who consider they are still due a refund may wish to contact the company.

Ofcom’s fine incorporates a 30% reduction as Giffgaff agreed to settle the case and admitted the breach identified.

The reduced penalty also recognises that, in line with good industry practice, Giffgaff reported the matter to Ofcom promptly when it realised its mistakes, and took active steps to fix the problem and refund customers.

What went wrong
Giffgaff customers can pre-pay for bundles of voice minutes, text messages and data – known as ‘goodybags’. They can also purchase pre-paid top-up credit.

Ofcom rules require telecoms providers to bill customers accurately for the services they use.[1] But in this case, customers who bought a ‘goodybag’ bundle, while using their pre-paid credit, were overcharged.

This was because there was a delay in Giffgaff applying the bundle purchase to their accounts. It meant that any voice calls customers were making, or the data they were using at the time, came out of their pre-paid credit. These services should have been free immediately from the point the bundle was purchased – so the customers were effectively charged twice.

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.

Next steps
The fine, which must be paid to Ofcom within 20 working days, will be passed on to HM Treasury.

During the course of our investigation, Giffgaff failed to provide accurate information in response to two statutory information requests issued by Ofcom. So we have also today imposed an additional penalty of £50,000 on Giffgaff for these contraventions.

End it with a text: easy mobile switching from Monday

At the moment, people wanting to switch mobile operator and keep their phone number usually have to call their current provider to request a ‘porting authorisation code’ (PAC). But many find themselves frustrated by unwanted attempts to persuade them to stay.

New Ofcom research reveals that nearly a third (31%) of mobile switchers find it difficult to cancel their previous service. This is the biggest obstacle to switching people face.[1]

Of the people who consider switching but then choose not to, 45% decide switching would be too time consuming; and 39% are put off by the hassle of needing to contact more than one provider.

Our new ‘text-to-switch’ process makes it quicker and easier for people to leave their mobile company, by giving customers control over how much contact they have with their existing provider. This is how it works:

Text 'PAC' to 65075 and you'll receive your switching code, along with any important information (e.g. early termination charges). Your new provider can use this code to switch your service.

Text ‘PAC’ to 65075 – and keep your mobile number

If a customer wants to switch and keep their existing phone number, they just text ‘PAC’ to 65075 to begin the process.

Their existing provider will respond by text within a minute. They will be sent their switching code (PAC), which will be valid for 30 days.[2] The provider’s reply must also include important information about any early termination charges or pay-as-you-go credit balances.

The customer then gives the code to their new provider, and this company must arrange for the switch to complete within one working day.

The new process is designed to be quick and easy, so customers could request their code while looking for a new deal – for example, while on the phone to a new provider, or in store.

Text ‘STAC’ to 75075 – and get a new mobile number

While most people want to keep their mobile number when they switch, around one in six do not. These customers can text ‘STAC’ to 75075 to request a ‘service termination authorisation code’. The rest of the process is the same as above. This takes away the hassle of having to talk to your current provider if you simply want to leave them.

Text ‘INFO’ to 85075 – and find out more

If someone is not sure whether they are still ‘in contract’, and would have to pay any early termination charges, they can simply text ‘INFO’ to 85075 to find this out without requesting a switching code.

Notice-period charges banned

The second biggest hurdle switchers face (after cancelling their previous service) is trying to avoid paying their old and new mobile companies at the same time – with three in ten customers finding this difficult.

So, from Monday, Ofcom has banned mobile providers from charging for notice periods running after the switch date. This will save UK mobile customers a combined £10m each year.

Customers need to give their new provider the PAC or STAC number, so their old and new mobile companies can make sure there is no double payment.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, said: “Breaking up with your mobile provider has never been easier thanks to Ofcom’s new rules. You won’t need to have that awkward chat with your current provider to take advantage of the great deals available.”

Broadband speeds boost for UK homes

UK households are benefiting from faster, more reliable internet as new Ofcom research reveals average broadband speeds have jumped nearly 20% in the last year.

Ofcom’s annual home broadband performance report compares how different broadband packages perform, using data from monitors installed on people’s broadband routers.[1]

For the first time, the average download speeds people receive has passed the 50 Mbit/s mark – rising by 18% in the last year to 54.2 Mbit/s.

Upload speeds, which are increasingly important as more people look to work from home or share videos online, have also increased – up 15% to 7.2 Mbit/s. Both download and upload speeds have more than doubled in the last five years.

The fastest speeds recorded in the research were from Virgin Media’s VIVID 350 cable package, with average peak time speeds hitting 360.2 Mbit/s. BT’s 300 Mbit/s full-fibre package was second fastest, with an average peak time speed of 300.6 Mbit/s. This package was top for average peak time upload speeds at 48.8 Mbit/s.

In 2018 the average download speed was 54.2 Mbit/s and the average upload speed was 7.2 Mbit/s.

Super streamers

Our research also looked at how different broadband packages affect people’s experience of streaming video content. People using superfast connections or faster were able to stream Netflix films or shows in ultra-high definition (UHD) without buffering in almost every case.

But only one-in-10 homes with basic, copper broadband are able to stream their favourite shows in UHD.

With more than nine-in-ten UK homes and small businesses now able to get superfast connections, many on standard broadband could improve their streaming experience by upgrading – often without paying more than they do now. Ofcom’s Boost Your Broadbandcampaign allows people to easily check what broadband is available in their area, see what broadband is best for their needs and get advice on how to secure the right deal for them.

Full speed ahead for full fibre

Full-fibre packages, where fibre cables run all the way from the exchange to people’s homes, performed better than equivalent copper-based packages in almost every measure – including both download and upload speeds.

Older, copper-based broadband services are more likely to suffer a drop in speed during evenings when more people are getting online.

To help increase the availability of full fibre across the UK we have introduced a package of measures to support investment in full fibre, and make it quicker and easier for companies to build their networks.

Yih-Choung Teh, Strategy and Research Group Director at Ofcom, said: “Broadband comes in lots of flavours these days: copper, superfast, cable and full fibre. Which kind you choose can really affect your online experience.

“So we’re encouraging people to visit our dedicated Boost Your Broadband website, to find out how they could get faster broadband, for the same or less than they pay now.”

Whatsapp Scam doing the rounds be aware​!

There is a WhatsApp scam doing the rounds that has already seen people behind the scam make millions.
 
There is a WhatsApp scam doing the rounds that has already seen people behind the scam make millions.
 
The Scam tells Whatsapp users that they are going to have to start paying for the service. It’s demanded that they must then pay 99p to continue using the app, The scam is playing on the fact that when Whatsapp first launched you were required to pay a 99p fee to continue using the app after 12 months.
 
This is not the case and the app is completely free for all users now, Don’t fall victim to the scam.
 
Once you’ve made a payment of 99p they have your bank details and quickly ​start bleeding your accounts dry. The people​ behind the scam have obtained a list of UK telephone numbers and have been sending out messages to the users with a high success rate of people paying the 99p.
 

 
The message states: “Your subscription has expired. To verify your account and purchase a lifetime subscription for just 0.99 GDP simply tap on this link…”
 
Your best bet is to delete the message as soon as it arrives and to run antivirus software if you have clicked the link.
 
 

Most US homes have mobiles but no landline

Less than half of US households now have a landline, according to a study from the US government.
  
Less than half of US households now have a landline, according to a study from the US government.
 
Of the households surveyed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 50.8% of homes had at least one mobile phone but no landline. A further 3.3% of homes surveyed had neither a mobile phone nor a landline. The CDC found that mobile-only households had become the majority during its twice-yearly survey into the health and habits of Americans. 
 
Participants in the National Health Interview Survey are asked to provide a residential phone number in case the CDC needs to contact them again.
 
In 2003, it started to ask participating households whether they had “at least one phone inside [the] home that is currently working and is not a cell phone”. Its preliminary data for the second half of 2016 suggests that only 45.9% of households had a landline. The CDC does not explore the reasons why participants do not have a fixed phone line, if that is the case. Instead, it uses the data to help ensure it is interviewing a representative sample of the US population.
 
The CDC says that the number of households without a landline has risen by 2.5% since the same period in 2015. It suggests that more than 123 million adults (50.5%) and more than 44 million children (60.7%) live in households with at least one mobile phone but no landline.
 
More than 70% of adults aged 25-34 were found to live in mobile-only homes, while almost 84% of households made up of unrelated adults had no fixed phone line. Renters, adults deemed to be living in poverty or near-poverty, and Hispanic adults were also found to be more likely to live in mobile-only households.
 
In the UK, the proportion of mobile-only households is much lower. Figures from the telecoms and communications watchdog, Ofcom, show that at the start of 2017, just 18% of UK households were mobile-only.
 
The reason, it says, is that despite a steady decline in the quantity of calls made and received via a landline, most homes still need one in order to get fixed line broadband. Many in the US can get their broadband and TV via a cable provider instead, which removes the need for a traditional phone line.
 
 

Apple’s iPhone sales in surprise drop

Apple sold fewer iPhones than a year ago in the first three months of 2017, the company said in its latest results.
 
Apple sold fewer iPhones than a year ago in the first three months of 2017, the company said in its latest results.
 
The California firm, which is due to release a new phone later this year, said it sold 50.8 million iPhones in the period, down 1% year-on-year. Apple boss Tim Cook blamed a “pause” as customers wait for the next iPhone.
 
Shares in the firm fell nearly 2% in after-hours trading after earlier hitting a record high on expectations of better results. Apple reported a 4.6% rise in revenue across the whole company to $52.9bn (£41bn), slightly below analysts’ forecasts.
The dip in iPhone sales was offset by services, including Apple Pay, iCloud and the App store, which recorded an 18% increase in sales to $7bn.
 
Mr Cook also pointed to growth in sales of Apple Watch, as well as its AirPods and Beats earphones. Despite falling unit sales, revenue from iPhones still climbed 1% to $33.2bn due to “robust” sales of its bigger, more expensive iPhone 7 Plus.
 
 
 
 

UK’s best and worst cities for 4G mobile coverage revealed

Middlesbrough is the best place in the UK to get mobile 4G coverage while Bournemouth is the worst, says a report.
  
Middlesbrough is the best place in the UK to get mobile 4G coverage while Bournemouth is the worst, says a report.
 
Consumer group Which? and analyst OpenSignal measured data from mobile phones across 20 cities in the UK. They say “critical” reforms are needed to provide a better service for customers.
 
Ofcom said its rules meant “virtually all” UK premises would have to receive a 4G signal by the end of the year. The OpenSignal study analysed more than 500m data readings from mobile phones taken from more than 30,000 users between December 1 2016 and February 28 via an app. It ranked 20 of the biggest cities from top to bottom based on their 4G availability.
 
Top 5: Middlesbrough/Teesside – 82.7%, Sheffield – 79.3%, Sunderland – 79%, Leicester – 78.6%, Leeds/West Yorkshire – 78.2%
 
Bottom 5: Bournemouth/Poole – 67.5%, Southampton/Portsmouth – 69.6%, Cardiff – 71.8%, Nottingham – 73.3%, London – 73.6%
 
The report also looked at average 4G download speeds across the UK, finding Stoke-on-Trent to be the fastest city and Brighton the slowest. Which? says big cities often suffer from sub-par mobile networks because it is more difficult to build towers and masts in built-up urban areas.
 
Which? is calling on the next government to work with Ofcom and mobile providers to ensure “critical reforms” are made to ensure a better performance and service for customers. Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home products and services, said Ofcom needed to “keep the pressure” on mobile operators so every part of the country got a “decent service”.
 
“Our mobile phone is central to how we live our lives and that is why it is so frustrating when we can’t access emails or browse the internet on the go,” she added.
 
Ofcom said it agreed mobile coverage must improve and that it understood the “importance” of having a reliable mobile broadband where people live and work. A spokeswoman said: “Ofcom rules mean that virtually all UK premises must receive a 4G signal by the end of this year. We’re also making available valuable new airwaves to boost mobile broadband, and have challenged mobile operators to explore how to reach all remote areas and transport lines.”
 
 

UK mobile network performance best in Belfast area

Belfast and its surrounding area is the best in the UK for overall mobile network performance, according to research.
  
Belfast and its surrounding area is the best in the UK for overall mobile network performance, according to research.
 
Research company RootMetrics tested the performance of the four main operators in the UK’s 16 most populated areas. London ranked fourth from the bottom, with only Bristol, Hull and Cardiff getting lower overall scores.
 
But RootMetrics said all the areas surveyed had improved over the past few years. Newcastle and Glasgow were both singled out for improved network performance, thanks in part to increased data reliability and speed.
 
The research focused on six categories: network reliability, network speed, data performance, call performance, text performance & overall performance.
 
Belfast, Manchester, and Liverpool took the top three places in four of the six categories. As well as being ranked best overall, Belfast was found to be best for text performance, data performance and speed. Manchester was the best performing in terms of network reliability and call performance.
 
Of the 16 cities RootMetrics studied, Cardiff got the lowest score.
 
RootMetrics’ research showed that data speeds in the area were getting faster, but the networks’ performance in the other categories was largely unchanged from the first half of 2016.
 
The research covered not just the named cities but their surrounding areas. The region covered by the London data, for example, stretches “from Maidenhead to Southend-on-Sea, and from Tunbridge Wells to Cambridge”, according to Scott Stonham, general manager for RootMetrics Europe.
 
“There’s a high level of transient demand from people travelling through the area, which is difficult to plan for, and the bigger the area the harder that is,” he said. “With the numbers of people and the area covered, we get quite a wide spectrum of performance. London as a city is much better.”
 
RootMetrics said that the improved mobile performance in Newcastle was the result of faster download speeds, data reliability, and fewer blocked and dropped calls on all the networks. In Glasgow, the researchers found “significant improvements” to both the speed and reliability of data services.
 
 
 
 

Uber ‘tracked iPhones to stop fraud’

Uber reportedly used a tactic called fingerprinting to track iPhones in order to fight fraud – despite Apple banning the practice.
 
Uber reportedly used a tactic called fingerprinting to track iPhones in order to fight fraud – despite Apple banning the practice.
 
The New York Times reports that in 2015 Apple discovered that the ride-sharing company had broken its privacy rules by collecting iPhone serial numbers. Boss Tim Cook told Uber founder Travis Kalanick to remove the “fingerprinting” code or he would ban the app from the Apple Store, the paper claims.
 
Uber said the practice of fingerprinting deterred criminals from installing its app on stolen phones, using stolen credit cards to book journeys, then wiping the phone and doing it again. “Being able to recognise known bad actors when they try to get back on to our network is an important security measure for both Uber and our users,” it said.
 
Security researcher Will Strafach told news site Tech Crunch that the coding in the iPhone version of the app from 2014 revealed that it was noting the device’s serial number. The New York Times also claimed Uber ringfenced Apple’s Cupertino headquarters so that employees using the app there would not notice.
 
Cyber-security expert Prof Alan Woodward, from University of Surrey, said the act of fingerprinting is fairly common and generally not blocked by other operators – for example, if you sign into a service from a different device and get an email warning you about it, it’s because there is a device ID linked to your account.
 
“Digital fingerprinting can be effective in tracking who goes where on the web, and it can be used to prevent fraud, but also it has the potential to invade your privacy,” he said. “Whether it should be allowed ultimately will be a matter for the legislators and not all jurisdictions will necessarily agree.”
 
The practice is still banned by Apple.
 
 
 

Three apologises after network problems

Mobile phone company Three has apologised after some of its customers were unable to make calls or texts.
  
Mobile phone company Three has apologised after some of its customers were unable to make calls or texts.
 
The company said it had a “temporary network issue” which affected calls and texts during Saturday afternoon and evening. It said calls had since been restored and that it is working to restore full service.
 
But some users on Twitter complained of their texts being sent to random numbers instead of their contacts.
 
A spokeswoman said the company was “currently investigating the cause of the service disruption” and that it apologised for any inconvenience. It also said that some “customers and non-customers” may have received a message from an unknown sender on Saturday.
 
In a statement on its website, the company said its advice “is to ignore all text messages that you deem incorrect”.
 
Three, which has about nine million customers, experienced a data breach last year which saw personal details, including names and addresses, accessed unlawfully.