O2 chief slams rivals for ‘undermining industry’


The chief executive made reference to a report published by CAB which suggested a lack of transparency among several operators

O2 chief executive Mark Evans slammed rivals for their billing practices in the wake of a report from the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) stating customers were being overcharged at the end of contracts.

Evans was speaking at O2’s Q3 financial announcement on October 25 at the Telefónica Digital office in Piccadilly Circus.

The chief executive made reference to a report published by CAB which suggested a lack of transparency among several operators.

The CAB found Vodafone, EE and Three were charging monthly contract customers up to £38 per month, on bills that continue to charge for handsets, despite them having already been fully paid for.

Evans said: “Forcing customers to continue to pay for a phone they already own not only hits their pockets but undermines trust and the reputation of the industry. We’d like to see other operators review their position and follow our lead with transparent tariffs that put customers in control.

“We say to our customers we are transparent about what they’re paying for and once they have paid for it we stop the billing automatically. We think that hands back significant value to the customer and it is the right thing to do.”

“Let’s be honest, their [rivals’] reaction from the CAB report was ‘we’d rather defend our position legally’. So they retrenched and said customers can contact us for issues and so on. Do I expect them to change now? No.

“In some respects I’m not surprised EE does what it does, because BT deploy exactly the same tactic with broadband. It makes you buy a fixed line that you neither want, need or use to get access to another product. Is that fair?”


EE and Three are due to take regulating body Ofcom to the High Court on December 5 to 7, challenging measures Ofcom has placed on the 2.4GHz and 3.4GHz frequency bands, moves Evans said has placed the auction “on ice”.

Both can be used to boost 4G availability while the 3.4GHz band is touted as groundwork for 5G, due to launch in 2020.

Evans said: “BT/EE and Three are challenging through a judicial review. Both have said that actually they would want the auction to get going as soon as possible. Let save the three-day High Court hearing and wait for the judgement.


“Any adjustment to the auction structure would require further consultation which will only delay the auction further. I share that we need frequencies made available to operators that wish to invest into its UK arm and we are one of those.”

The UK is expected to leave the European Union on March 29, 2019, prompting fears for the British economy. The Bank of England believes up to 75,000 jobs alone could be lost in financial services following the UK’s departure.

Evans said although operators are not impervious to the potential challenges of Brexit, any slow down would be due to the curtailing of device innovations.

He added: “I don’t think it [Brexit] has yet impacted consumer confidence from a mobile connectivity level, the demand continues to rise, its more driven by the apathies handset innovations has curtailed. That’s impacting consumer spend more so than the worries of Brexit.

“I think mobile connectivity is one of the most important aspects of your wallet, therefore I doubt at a consumer level its going to materially change that, but what could change is if uncertainty continues, we operate in a market which requires multibillion investments and you need long-term certainty. “I’m delighted that Telefónica continues to invest today but the sooner we get clarity from how it [Brexit] plays out, the better.”