O2's iPhone tethering charge: Ofcom want to hear from you
Last week we pulled apart O2's case concerning tethering charges for the iPhone. The fact of the matter is that while O2 maintain an excessive usage policy when it comes to unlimited services like data transfer, they don't have it written down anywhere and can't send you a copy. It's a curious state of affairs when you have to sign a contract and abide by policies you're not allowed to read.
If O2 told customers how much data they could use a month, then customers could have the choice of either using that data for their iPhone or for tethering. It wouldn't matter how the data was used - once the limit was reached, the customer could either pay per MB or pay for an additional data bolt-on. But O2 won't state what their excessive usage policy is, and so if you want to use your iPhone for tethering, they're going to charge you £15 a month for data you're already contributing towards.
Plenty of you aren't happy about the fact, including Bitterwallet reader Andy, who phoned up O2 for an explanation:
My call to 02 was by my choice a quiet and reasoned call. I wanted them to explain to me why I was going to be charged an almost 50% premium on my monthly tariff for tethering.
At first I was told that certain settings needed to be changed on my account. I responded by stating that changing settings did not justify the cost. At this point the customer services rep talked to his manager - he came back to say that O2 has never before offered tethering as a option. I queried this and he explained that O2's terms and conditions forbid tethering. I pointed out that 02 has not restricted customers from tethering their phones for years - the practice is well established and their terms and conditions would not hold up if challenged.
I asked him if he could explain to me why I could download a 500MB file to my iPhone and then move it to my laptop, but not tether and download it directly without paying a premium. He said he couldn't, and nor could he not put me in touch with anyone who could.
Andy then took matters one step further, in a direction that may develop into potential action if it receives enough support. Andy contacted Ofcom about the matter:
After navigating their automated system I reached an operator who listened to what I had to say. He said at first glance he was unsure why O2 was levying an additional charge. He explained this was the first time anyone had brought the matter to Ofcom's attention and encouraged me to write to O2 and follow it up.
He also said that any action Ofcom might take (he was not explicit) would not occur without further calls to them about this issue. He gave me a call reference number and ended by telling me that if I do not receive an adequate response within 12 weeks then I then would be in a position to contact Otelo, the telecommunications ombudsman.
So there you have it. Of course there's no promise of action, but at least Ofcom are prepared to listen. Their number in case you want it, is 020 7981 3040 or 0300 123 3333.