/ Technology

Complain for change: should O2 compensate me for its outage?

Angry woman on phone

If companies want to show their customers how much they value them, responding well to complaints is essential. So, I wasn’t very happy with the response O2 gave me after I was hit by its network outage.

I was one of the unfortunate O2 customers who experienced a network blackout for more than 12 hours on Friday last week. I was also one of the unfortunate O2 customers who endured the same thing in July.

However, unlike the July episode, this time I got no personalised apology, no adequate explanation for the fault and no compensation.

Good customer service reputation

O2 generally has a good reputation for customer services – so I was very disappointed by the way it handled its latest network failure and my subsequent complaint.

I emailed a very clear, considered and polite complaint to O2, asking what had happened, why I hadn’t received an apology (last time I was sent a prompt apology via text message) and why this time there had been no offer of compensation (last time all affected customers were given 10% off their month’s bill). I also explained the significant personal impact (which I won’t go into here) that the blackout had had on me.

Disappointingly, I received a woefully inadequate, automated response which failed to address any of my specific concerns.

Now, I should be clear in saying that O2 are not legally obliged to provide text updates or any form of compensation for network failure and this is stated in customer contracts. So, in a way, O2’s offer of compensation in July was a gesture of goodwill. Still, as we said last time, if you’ve been hugely inconvenienced by a network blackout shouldn’t you get some compensation?

How to respond to failures and complaints

An estimated 10% of O2’s 23 million customers were affected this time, surely a significant enough number to initiate a comprehensive and well-coordinated update, apology and compensation process?

And there are just some things that companies need to get right when they respond to a complaint. For example, getting the customer’s name (and title!) correct in the response. Taking the time to address the specific, and often personal, points the customer has raised. And formatting the email correctly so it’s not obvious that it’s a copy and paste response.

We all understand that problems can occur, but I don’t think there’s an excuse for handling a valid customer complaint so poorly.

Were you affected by the latest O2 network blackout? Did you complain and if so what kind of response did you get?


A mobile phone does not work for a whole twelve hours, and it has happened twice in a year. Shock, horror. No personalised apology. How could 23 million customers get a personalised apology, for goodness sake?

Why not use a landline or carry a spare mobile on a different network?

If we are going to Complain for change, perhaps we should be complaining about the lack of resourcefulness of the British population. 🙂

While I was effected by both O2 outages, I’ll forgive them. In the grand scheme of things I’ve only been to one place in the UK where my signal has dropped out and when my phone says it has coverage it actually does.

With a previous contact at Orange, I suffered no end of troubles and constantly had calls dropping out, web pages not loading and delayed text messages…all despite an apparent strong signal. I was paying much more for that contract and not once received an apology or any form of compensation. It’s in these circumstances that I think people are due them.

*affected. Damn my lack of proof-reading.

wavechange, I think I’d have agreed with you 10-15 years ago when mobile phones weren’t so common, but now they are we really rely on them for some quite crucial things: calling people to let them know we’re coming home, calling people to get picked up, etc. Anyone with children would, I suspect, be pretty distressed if they couldn’t call to get hold of them. They’re no longer a ‘nice to have’ – once you get one it becomes a lifeline, and sometimes the only way you can contact someone in an emergency.

Your solution of a spare mobile is a good one, though, and I’m tempted to get a cheap sim card to save this problem happening in the future.

But regarding resourcefulness – I’m pretty sure we were resourceful before mobile phones, because we had to be. I remember when I was a teenager my parents (and all of my friends’ parents) had the number for the phone box on the corner of the park where we used to meet. When the phone rang one of us would run over, answer the phone box, and relay messages about who had to go home for tea. How’s that for resourceful? =)

Thanks, Nikki. Though I did not mention it, what really annoyed me was the reference to claiming compensation because there was problem with the phone network. I am all for reliable products and services, but also acknowledge that problems can occasionally occur.

If you do get an emergency PAYG sim card or phone, bear in mind that it will need to be used periodically to avoid disconnection.

I feel so lucky that mobile phones were not around when I was a child. It would have been embarrassing to have my mother ringing to check that I was OK.

fretman says:
26 October 2012

When this problem happend in july O2 promised everyone a £10 credit note to be used in store. Me and my girlfriend hadnt yet had this so when we called into an O2 store to ask about this,to our shock we were told oh that offer has expired it was only for the month of september didnt you see the offer on O2 priority moments how could we with out smart phones to check not happy about this .

Dual SIM phones should be made more (or even actually) available in UK and Europe.
Samsung, Motorola, Nokia all make them but for the far east markets mainly.
Samsung have just release their Galaxy S DUOS model. It would allow a secondary SIM when travelling (you have a local SIM/ number and you can be contacted as a local eg taxi call back etc) and also for backup (PAYG for example) on a network for both outages and coverage issues when your preferred network fails to work but another less preferred still does.
For some reason (maybe network locking ?) they are only available via ebay and often with import duty etc liability / no EU purchase protection.

Business and critical contact users need such items readily available – even if sold out of contract / full price. (Oh and for the manufacturers and network reviewers, a dual SIM phone user does still need a high end phone, dual SIM ONE X, and Galaxy S3 please 😉 )

I firmly believe that mobile phone companies should offer compensation if the service you’ve actually paid for isn’t delivered. For other utilities there are service level agreements which mean that customers have the right to claim compensation if that utility fails to work for a given length of time – and rightly so. If you’ve paid for something you should get it (including a mobile phone service) and if the company fails to deliver this, then you should have the right to get compensation.


Earlier in the year you would have had us complaining about tasteless sandwiches. Now it phone networks that stop working occasionally. There are much more serious issues and many of them have been discussed on Which? Conversation. I think we should focus on actually resolving some of these issues rather discussing them over and over again. Our phones will be working by tomorrow and we can buy sandwiches somewhere else, or even make our own.

If I could suggest a topic it would be to push retailers to honour their obligations under the Sale of Goods Act, resulting in a huge amount of waste and cost to the consumer.

If we insist of compensation for ever little problem then the price of services and goods will go up for everyone, and I’m sure that will be welcome. 🙂

Hi wavechange, I completely agree with your point about the Sale of Goods Act and this is something Which? is looking at. Unfortunately change doesn’t happen overnight so we just have to keep plugging away behind the scenes which is what we do 🙂

On your point about complaining about tasteless sandwiches (and the like) my belief is that people should express when they’re dissatisfied with something (no matter how seemingly insignificant) because how are companies expected to improve if they don’t know how dissatisfied you are? I must add though that my conversation about my EAT sandwich was written with tongue firmly in cheek but I still maintain that the point remains the same – companies will never improve if we don’t express our dissatisfaction 🙂

Thanks, Amanda. I completely agree that companies will never improve if we don’t express dissatisfaction. I frequently express dissatisfaction, and try to do it in a constructive way. For example: The meal was good but the plate was cold.

I see making a complaint as something more than expressing dissatisfaction. Complaints need to be listened to and receive an individual response. Repeated dissatisfaction should certainly be escalated to a complaint.

“Now, I should be clear in saying that O2 are not legally obliged to provide text updates or any form of compensation for network failure and this is stated in customer contracts” – I think you’re quite wrong about this. If, as is the case here, O2 fails to carry out the service with reasonable care and skill, it is in breach of Section 13 of the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. If O2’s T&Cs attempt to excuse O2 from this statutory obligation or any other reasonable expectation, they would be enforceable according to the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999.

I made a typo above. I meant to say “unenforceable”, not “enforceable”.

It clearly says in the T&C’s about outages so perhaps take time to read up to what service your agreeing to with each network rather than just expecting. It clearly says that they can’t guarantee service all the time, so really it’s the persons fault for not reading that this can happen from time to time and to make sure your covered in other ways.