• O2 clients can leave without a penalty fee (IT – 25th June 2010)

    Bill-pay customers on O2 have a rare opportunity to leave their contract without penalty thanks to some little-known European legislation. The network recently announced call tariff changes and, under EU law, it is required to give customers the option of leaving their agreement as a result.

    The rule is part of a 2003 regulation on electronic communications networks and covers the entire telecoms industry. It requires networks to give customers one month’s notice of contract changes and a chance to walk away if they disagree with them.

    Customers who wish to leave their contract with O2 need to notify the network before 12th July.

    “It [the regulation] is industry-wide for a start; even for a change in terms and conditions this has to be done,” said Fiona Dowling, representative of O2 Ireland. “We’ve done it before and traditionally it hasn’t translated into many customers leaving the network, we’re naturally very keen to retain our customers.

    “We do get a lot of queries, though, as there is a certain amount of confusion about changes and some clarification is required.”

    The opportunity may be of particular interest to customers signed up to 18-month contracts as part of the network’s iPhone deals, some of which may have been taken out shortly before the announcement of the new iPhone 4.

    At present it is not known how existing iPhone users will be able to upgrade their handsets and how much it will cost to do so. However Ms Dowling said this fact has not appeared to translate to a higher number of cancellation requests than usual.

    “In the past we have not experienced a pattern of increased calls on this subject when a new smart phone enters the market, and iPhone 4 is no exception to this,” she said. “Things like this are often an opportunity for us to talk to the customer and ensure they’re on the right price plan for the way they use their phone.”

    O2 in the UK, which launched the iPhone 4 this week, has offered existing iPhone-owners an upgrade if they pay a flat rate for each month left on their existing contract. This translates to £20 (€24) for each full month remaining, regardless of the amount the customer would normally pay per month.

    Ms Dowling said O2 was still waiting on details of iPhone 4 availability in Ireland before it announced its own upgrade plans.

    Apple fans queued overnight in their hundreds outside shops in Europe and Japan to snap up the latest iPhone, as the technology giant set a new benchmark in the fast-growing smartphone market.

    The iPhone 4 makes possible video calls, can handle multiple tasks simultaneously and has longer battery life than previous versions – adding specifications that some rivals already have to its iconic design appeal.

    It sold a record 600,000 in pre-orders in a single day last week, and BGC analyst Colin Gillis expects Apple to set a record for being the first company to sell a million smartphones in a single day.

    Apple’s latest salvo in the battle for the smartphone market, which IT research firm Gartner expects to grow 46 per cent this year over last year’s 172 million units, comes as rivals based on Google’s Android software gather steam.

    Analysts estimate that Android’s 4 per cent of the market last year will grow to 11 per cent this year, while Apple’s share is seen steady at 14 per cent.