herald

Thursday 8 December 2016

Phone firm must pay out €672 over free app charges

Nick O'Brien
Nick O'Brien

A MOBILE phone company which charged a customer 25c every time he used an Apple app has been ordered to pay costs and damages.

Dubliner Nick O'Brien (36) refused to agree an out-of-court settlement with O2, now trading as Three, in a multi-faceted legal action before Letterkenny District Court.

The law student sued O2 for losses incurred last year in a series of arguments with the company which was taken over by Three earlier this year.

Mr O'Brien told Judge Paul Kelly that he was a pay-as-you-go customer with O2 at the time.

strange

In April, May and June of 2014 he noticed a "strange" 25c charge appearing in his online statement every time he made a call on the free Apple app FaceTime.

The charge appeared as a text message to a UK mobile phone number.

The father-of-two said he made calls on FaceTime up to three times a day during that period. He checked the terms and conditions published by Apple and O2.

"Nowhere was there any reference whatsoever to charges from either company," he said.

"I had an Apple iPhone 4 at the time which could only connect on FaceTime through wifi. Later models do allow connection through a mobile phone connection, but my phone didn't."

Mr O'Brien said he tried but failed to get an explanation from O2.

"When I rang O2 I was initially told that I must have texted this UK number. No one was able to explain it," he said. "I found out on O2's own forums that this was a charge for using FaceTime, an app which is supposed to be free, and I found hundreds and hundreds of similar complaints right there on O2's own website forums."

Mr O'Brien said his problems with O2 continued on June 11 when he was in Austria. He topped up his phone with €25 credit, only to find on his return that the credit had been wiped.

O2, he said, claimed he had changed his plan and customers changing their plans had credit on a previous plan wiped.

He then received 225 text messages from the company.

Mr O'Brien had more problems in August when he bought a €79.99 Nokia phone from O2's online site, only to discover when he received it that it had been used before, in May, on the Orange network in the UK.

Patrick Nolan, from Three, said the FaceTime charges and the sale of the Nokia were still being investigated.

resolve

He said customers registering with Apple are charged 25c on registration when a text message is "automatically generated by the iPhone" and sent to an Apple server in the UK.

However, he said he did not know why Mr O'Brien had been charged up to 90 times "unless it was de-registering and re-registering all the time".

Mr Nolan said the company had no explanation for the secondhand phone being sent to Mr O'Brien.

The judge ordered Three to pay Mr O'Brien €672.49 in damages and costs. He said it had tried to resolve the issues but had been unable to do so.

hnews@herald.ie

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