Senior executives at O2 are considering how best to “make it up to customers” following a day of disruption to its data networks.
No decision has yet been made on how the mobile provider plans to compensate customers.
However, a spokesman accepted that valid claims for losses were the responsibility of O2.
On Thursday, it issued a joint apology with mobile network equipment supplier Ericsson for the shutdown.
O2 has 25 million users and also provides services for the Sky, Tesco, Giffgaff and Lycamobile networks, which have another seven million users.
Services such as bus timetable information were also affected, while many businesses faced disruption.
How were people affected?
Luke Stagg runs a plumbing business and depends on his phone, but he could not get through to customers or use his sat nav.
He said that he would never know how many jobs he had missed out on during Thursday. In addition, he could not contact those he was supposed to be visiting, and his day was wasted.
“I’m 36 years old, so I know how to use a map, but I could not make calls,” he said. “Mine was not a proper emergency but there is a wider point – I want to know what happens if it went down for even longer.”
He said when he lost data coverage on a previous occasion, he was offered vouchers to use in the O2 shop. However, he was not impressed with the offer.
Mischa Bittar, also a plumber, said he had been “unable to contact any of my engineers or customers via email, unable to use our mobile systems to contact any engineers at all, so everyone’s just had to down tools”.
“A lot of money lost and the first thing I know about it is via the BBC website, no contact from O2 at all, disappointing,” he added.
Omeran Amirat said he had lost bids for presents he was supposed to be buying for his children on internet auction site eBay. However, it is unlikely that he will receive compensation from O2 for this.
What are customers’ rights to compensation?
Significantly, rights for individuals are different to those for businesses.
For corporate customers, the right to compensation depends on the wording of their contract with O2.
Individuals have rights to make a claim to the company to which they pay the bill, under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 which states that services should be provided with reasonable skill and care.
Customers should be able to claim a refund for the proportion of the contract when they were without the use of the phone, according to Adam French, from consumer group Which?.
They could also claim consequential losses. For example, if they incurred bank charges because they were unable to move their money, or the cost of having to use a payphone.
This must be a genuine, reasonable loss which can be proved with evidence.
Helen Dewdney, who writes a blog called The Complaining Cow, suggested phone users should calculate their losses and write to O2 with the evidence, such as copies of receipts. They should state what they wanted as redress and mention the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
If they felt the response was unsatisfactory, it could be referred to Ombudsman Services: Communications of which O2 is a member. The customer would need to ask for a letter from O2 confirming they had failed to reach an agreement, or wait eight weeks from the beginning of the complaint.
What happens in other industries?
When a household is without electricity for more than 12 hours, it is automatically paid compensation.
Customers are paid £75 for disruption caused by a power cut. If the cause is extreme weather, then compensation is due after 48 hours.
Which? said that a similar template could be considered by the communications regulator, Ofcom, when data services were unavailable.
What caused the problem?
Ericsson president Börje Ekholm said “an initial root cause analysis” had indicated that the “main issue was an expired certificate in the software versions installed with these customers”.
The company was carrying out “a complete and comprehensive root cause analysis”, he added.
O2 said voice calls were not affected by the problem, but some customers said they could not make calls or send texts either.
O2 is owned by Spain’s Telefonica and has the UK’s second-largest mobile network after EE, which is part of BT. It is the company that bills customers, so it holds the responsibility for compensation.
Mr French, of Which?, said the company should “do the right thing” for customers, with the option of offering additional perks alongside refunds.
Are there any other considerations for customers
Many people would have used public-access wi-fi if they were unable to access data through the O2 network.
Mr French said this created additional risks if people were exposing personal information on these networks.
Senior executives at O2 are considering how best to “make it up to customers” following a day of disruption to its data networks. No decision has yet been made on how the mobile provider plans to compensate customers. However, a spokesman accepted that valid claims for losses were the responsibility of O2.