Google defines unlimited as “not limited or restricted in terms of number, quantity, or extent”:
Google’s definition of unlimited
The Collins English Dictionary defines unlimited as “without limits or bounds” or “not restricted, limited, or qualified”.
The Collins English Dictionary definition of ‘unlimited’
O2, however define unlimited differently, they define it as having limits, bounds and being very restricted as I found out to my disappointment two weeks ago.
A loyal customer
I switched to O2 back in November 2008 in order to get an iPhone as O2 had exclusivity at the time. After my initial contract expired I switched in June 2010 to an O2 Simplicity SIM only plan with 300 minutes, unlimited texts for £10 per month with an “Unlimited data + WiFi” bolt on for an extra £5 per month making a grand total of £15 per month.
My O2 Bolt-ons
In November 2010 I left the UK and lived in the USA until January 2012, I continued paying the £15 per month as I wanted to keep my number active and not lose out on what I thought was a great deal at the time.
Sometime in early 2011, the tariff increase by 32 pence and then again in December 2012, eight days before Christmas they e-mailed to advise that the price of my Tariff would increase by a further 33 pence in February 2013.
Despite the tariff increases and several significant service outages over the last couple of years I stuck with O2 believing that I was getting a good deal.
In January this year I moved to Belfast and whilst waiting for my internet to be installed at my house (which was going to take around 3 weeks) I relied heavily on my ‘unlimited’ data plan for all my data needs i.e. e-mail, googling, YouTube, Netflix etc. It was not used for P2P file sharing or anything illegal, I felt I was using the service I was paying for fairly until I received the following text message:
SMS from O2 – 15th January
To be honest, I didn’t pay much attention to this text message as I knew I was on an ‘unlimited’ data plan and I knew the definition of ‘unlimited’ so I assumed this was a generic message they sent to customers who were using a lot of data.
Three days later, in the middle of enjoying watching an episode of ‘House of Cards’ on Netflix the connection dropped and I was left with nothing but another text message from O2:
SMS from O2 – 18th January
My blood boiled, I was furious. My internet wasn’t being installed until 23rd January so it was going to be 5 days with no data. I checked my allowance:
Account Status on 18th January
Then double checked by data allowance:
My ‘Unlimited’ Data Allowance
Then checked the usage on my device which reported I had only used 6GB of data:
My Data Usage
I was very annoyed and wanted to contact O2 customer services but I couldn’t even Google to find out the number to ring so had to ring and ask someone if they could Google the number for me.
Unfair ‘Fair Use’
I eventually got the number for customer services and was told that I had exceeded the ‘fair use’ policy for my plan. I argued that I had been using my phone fairly, doing relatively normal things expected of smart phones in the year 2014 and that their ‘fair use’ policy was not very fair. The Six Gigabyte limit equated to about 200 Megabyte per day on average over the entire billing cycle and I had used 333 Megabyte per day on average over the previous 18 days.
They told me that I was on an old data plan that had been designed for smartphone devices and had an original ‘fair use’ policy of 250 Megabyte for the month. I don’t believe I was ever advised of this fair usage policy when I got this bolt-on in 2010. The customer services agent said there was nothing they could do for me and I would have to wait two weeks for my allowance to reset. Feeling betrayed and realising I had been duped for the past three and a half years I asked for my PAC code to disconnect my service. They connected me through the the disconnections agent and I had to explain the entire issue again to which he too said there was nothing he could do. I felt my loyalty and custom had meant nothing and I received my PAC code by SMS a few minutes later.
Soaked, lost and out of pocket
I felt somewhat lost without my internet connection, I couldn’t check if the phone shops in Belfast were still open and I couldn’t check the bus times. I decided to hop on the next bus and go into the city centre anyway. I arrived just after 6pm to find all the stores closed – thanks to O2 I got soaked and wasted a return bus journey and over an hour of my time. It did give me the opportunity though to visit the nearest McDonalds and use O2’s Free WiFi to find out when their competitors opened the next day.
I ended up switching to the ‘One Plan’ with Three which has All-You-Can-Eat data (with no fair use policy), 5000 text messages and 2000 minutes plus you can use up to 25 Gigabyte of data (and some of your voice and text message allowance) in ‘Feel at Home’ countries including the Republic of Ireland and the USA. All in, I’m only paying £15 per month which is less than what I paid O2.
Five days after leaving O2 I received an e-mail advising that the tariff would increase yet again by a further 2.7% adding an extra 28 pence to the monthly bill. Yet another great reason to leave them…
My advice to O2 and all businesses is don’t deceive your customers – 6 GB of data doesn’t mean unlimited, there is no way you can call it unlimited if there is a fair usage policy that in some way limits it or restricts it. Please rename your bolt-on and call it ‘Limited Data + WiFi’ to prevent further confusion with other customers. Honesty is the best policy period.
On a separate but related topic regarding this previous post on Unauthorised Roaming Charges, I’ve also discovered that O2 have continued to charge me the following amounts which I have had no control over (the Data Roaming option is disabled on my device).