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Tech Lowdown: Government blunder, Monzo open letter and O2 fined £10m

This week’s roundup features a government framework blunder, Monzo calls for banking gambling blocks and O2 is fined £10m by Ofcom.

17th Feb 2021
Staff Writer AccountingWEB
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Government £2bn 'digital outcomes' framework supplier has no website

The £2bn deals for the government's digital outcomes' framework, will be made available to UK public sector bodies and will last for a minimum of 12 months. But one of the suppliers, Users Needs Ltd, does not have a website.

Nottingham-based Users Needs Ltd has won the fourth contract for up to £20m for a vague framework called "User Research Participants". Little is known about this framework or the supplier.

The Cabinet Office's Crown Commercial Service (CCS) made the deals to encourage suppliers to "help research, test, design, build, release, iterate, support or retire a digital service," according to a contract award notice.

The deals are currently valued at £2bn, but the government is keen to emphasise this being only an estimate. "We cannot guarantee to suppliers any business through this Commercial Agreement," the contract notice said.

As always, CCS takes a 1% commission on spending through all the public sector framework it organises.

Since publishing this article, the CCS has contacted AccountingWEB with the following commentary:

"DOS 5 is designed to attract SMEs and it is important to keep costs manageable for them. It is not a legal or framework requirement for a supplier to have a website. A website is not considered essential for a company to carry out any awarded public sector contracts successfully.

"As 3,340 suppliers have been awarded a place on DOS5,  the Contracts finder format has displayed one supplier for each lot and there is a link to the list of all the suppliers and the lots they come under."

Monzo calls for mandatory gambling block on bank accounts

In an open letter to the UK government supported by top NHS clinicians, gambling harm charities and leading academics, Monzo has called for mandatory gambling blocks on all UK bank accounts.

With mandatory blocks, every UK banking customer would be able to implement a gambling block on their account, preventing debit card payments to any gambling provider in the UK, irrespective of the bank.

Currently, 50% of UK current accounts don’t allow customers to block gambling, even though 50% of customers using gambling blocks spend less or no money on gambling, according to University of Bristol research.

“Once it's on, more than 90% of people keep it on,” comments Monzo. “Which means we block up to 585,000 gambling transactions a month – that’s one or two attempted gambling transactions for every person who uses it.”

O2 fined £10m for overcharging customers

Telecoms regulator Ofcom has fined 02 £10.5m for double charging customers on fees when leaving its network during an eight-year period.

140,000 contract customers were overcharged a collective £2.4m between 2011 and 2019 as a result of this error. 

According to the mobile network, it has refunded many of these customers with an additional 4% to the repayment but has been unable to contact other form subscribers. It intends to donate these refunds to charity.

However, Ofcom has said that important regulations around providing accurate customer bills had been broken by O2 and that it warranted a fine, despite the refunds issued.

"This a serious breach of our rules and this fine is a reminder that we will step in if we see companies failing to protect their customers," said Ofcom enforcement chief Gaucho Rasmussen.

According to Ofcom, O2 was aware of the "issues with its billing processes" in 2011, but failed to resolve them and kept overcharging customers for a further eight years.

O2 said: "We are disappointed by this technical error and sincerely apologise to customers impacted.

"We identified the issue ourselves and notified our industry billing auditor. We have also taken proactive steps to refund all impacted customers for the extra charges they paid."

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By SimonLever
18th Feb 2021 11:48

"140,000 contract customers where overcharged a collective £2.4 between 2011 and 2019 as a result of this error. "

I think there may be a typo! £2.40 does not seem to warrant that level of fine!

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By Brend201
18th Feb 2021 12:59

The next paragraph is a mess with multiple typos. Writer must have been in a big hurry. I suspect that illustrates the pressure that writers/journalists work under these days.

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By tedbuck
18th Feb 2021 12:20

I don't know Simon - fines are the new Income Tax to provide more money for HMG to waste on silly projects - still I suppose it may help with the Covid Costs.

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