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O2 restores 3G network - but don't hold your breath for compensation

O2 has recovered from a network outage that left customers without access to voice, data and text services, but customers are unlikely to receive compensation without precedent in the UK
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor

O2 has recovered from a major data outage that left hundreds of thousands of customers without access to voice, data and text services for more than 24 hours, but customers are unlikely to get any compensation for the downtime.

The outage began on Wednesday morning. By Thursday morning the company had restored 2G connectivity and said it planned to have 3G services back online by Thursday afternoon. Another update followed soon after, confirming 3G data had been restored.

O2 has recovered from a network outage that left customers without access to voice, data and text services. Image credit: O2

"Our tests now show that all our 2G and 3G services have been fully restored for affected customers," a spokesman for O2 said in a statement. "The problem was due to a fault with one of our network systems, which meant some mobile phone numbers were not registering correctly on our network."

He added that customers still experiencing problems should switch their handsets off and on again to restore normal service.

During the outage, an O2 spokesman told ZDNet that the issue of compensating affected customers was not the priority as it was focusing its efforts on getting up and running again. While he did not rule out the possibility of compensation, he also confirmed that the company has not issued compensation for short outages in the past.

However, consumer campaigning charity Which? said it would like to see an offer of compensation for customers affected by the problems.

"O2 need to resolve this situation as quickly as possible and make sure they are doing everything they can to keep their customers properly informed about what's going on. We want to see O2 offer compensation to all customers who have been hugely inconvenienced by this service blackout and have been paying for a service they cannot use," Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which? said in a statement.

"People should also keep a log of any costs they incur to help with any claims for compensation," Lloyd added.

No precedent for compensation

A spokeswoman for the Communication Ombudsman confirmed that there is no precedent in the UK for issuing compensation for minor service outages, such as the one experienced by O2, and that each complaint is dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

A spokesman for Ofcom also said the telecoms watchdog was "in contact with O2 about its network problems" and would "consider the issue of compensation once these issues are resolved".

Stephen Hartley, practice leader of Ovum's telecoms strategy team, told ZDNet that while he doesn't believe there to be any regulatory commitment to provide compensation in cases such as this, it might be in the company's best interest to offer some sort of recompense from a public relations perspective, as was the case when Telecom New Zealand suffered a three-day outage in 2010 resulting in total compensation payments of NZ$5m (£2.54m).

As well as there being no precedent for compensation, there are also no legal grounds, according to Sophia King, a solicitor at the London law firm Thomas Eggar.

"O2 states in its own Pay Monthly Terms & Conditions that 'the service [it provides] isn't fault free'. Like the majority of contracts O2 has what is known as a 'force majeure' clause which states that where things go wrong and those events are outside O2's reasonable control, O2 will not be liable for any loss suffered," King told ZDNet. "So, while the disruption will have caused problems for both private and business customers, it is unlikely that anyone will successfully be able to bring a claim against O2."

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