Ofcom has fined Post Office £175,000 after an investigation found the company overcharged people with hearing or speech impairments who made telephone calls using a relay service.
Relay services help people with hearing and speech difficulties communicate with anyone over the phone by offering text-to-speech and speech-to-text translation.
Ofcom rules require phone providers to offer a ‘special tariff scheme’ for these types of calls when they are made by disabled people. The scheme is designed to compensate those callers for the additional time it takes for them to make phone calls using a relay service.
Ofcom found that Post Office failed to apply the special tariff to relay calls for at least five years, resulting in up to 126 people each year being overcharged. It also took over two years between Post Office becoming aware of the problem and it being fixed.
This was considered to be a serious breach of Ofcom rules to protect potentially vulnerable customers. Taking this, and the lengthy period of Post Office’s non-compliance into account, Ofcom has imposed a penalty of £175,000 on the company. We are also requiring Post Office to refund affected customers.
Ofcom consider that several factors made this a serious breach:
the potential vulnerability of those consumers affected;
the length of time in which Post Office contravened (and, for a period, knowingly contravened) the GC; and
the absence of any significant compliance function prior to 2018 which likely contributed to the breach occurring and/or delayed its identification.
The penalty includes a 30% discount in recognition that Post Office has admitted its failings and agreed to settle the case.
Ofcom and Post Office entered into a settlement process and Post Office wrote to Ofcom on 18 December 2019, admitting its liability in relation to the nature, scope and duration of the contravention.
The money raised from this fine, which must be paid to Ofcom within 20 working days, will be passed on to HM Treasury.