O2’s “free Web Bolt On” is not free at all!


Right now I should be packing my bags for a lovely long weekend away. But I have had to post to share my utter disbelief and frustration.

I have just had a letter from O2, my mobile phone provider. It reads:

This letter concerns your O2 Web Bolt On data usage. Your usage is significantly above the normal levels we expect to see with this product and we think you may be in breach of our terms. O2 Web Bolt On is subject to terms of use which stipulate that all usage must be for private, personal and non-commercial purposes and that you may not use your SIM Card:

  • in, or connected to, any other device including modems.
  • to allow the continuous streaming of any audio / video content, enable Voice over Internet (Voip), P2P or file sharing;
  • or in such a way that adversely impacts the service to other O2 customers.

Then there is a paragraph where they try to sell me O2 Mobile Broadband for £20 a month.

It then continues:

Unfortunately, if your usage continues at your existing level we may remove O2 Web Bolt from your account in accordance with terms of use.

Yours Sincerely

Paul Wilkinson
Credit & Risk Management
O2 (UK) Ltd

So, it appears O2’s Web Bolt On is only free when O2 decide it is free. No surprise there I guess.

HOWEVER, what does annoy me is that when I bought the phone I checked with O2 staff in the Birmingham Kings Heath shop that streaming video to the web was included in the free Web Bolt On. They told me they didn’t know and that they hadn’t realised you could stream straight to the web, but as long as I wasn’t downloading music or videos I would probably be fine. They advised me to phone customer services to double check. I did. They didn’t know either but as nothing had been charged to my account they told me to assume that it was all ok.

So, since then I’ve been happily streaming from Qik and using Fring (chat and Twitter only) FOR MY OWN PERSONAL USE. I don’t even use my work Twitter account on my own mobile.

It seems to me that O2 are penalising those who use mobile web to its full capabilities and must rely on people’s ignorance in order to claim to offer a “Free Web Bolt On”.

The ignorance of their staff doesn’t help much either.


16 thoughts on “O2’s “free Web Bolt On” is not free at all!

  1. Another one for the “phone companies do not understand the internet and should not be relied on to provide the infrastructure to access it” files.

  2. I hope you have a good weekend anyway….

    The nature of this post seems like a good opportunity to test out a theory about making service providers accountable in some small way.
    You may have seen my comment on Pete’s post about a local radio station attempting to promote its auto sale site. The point, roughly is that any publicity is good publicity, except perhaps when there’s a comparison and one service fares less well than the other.

    In this instance, if you were to compare a KH shop with other local shop with better service, or if you were to compare your current provider with a better provider, and if your comparison were picked up and repeated by a web network (Technorati, Twitter, …), some amount of traction might be gained that would bring about a conciliatory offer from the losing service.

    For all this to happen, I suspect one needs to provide hyperlinks to each of the compared services/shops. Maybe after the weekend?

  3. Thanks dp and Pete.

    I think you’re right, I should follow this up a bit more when I get back. I’d be interested to know if it’s just O2 that operates this sort of policy. I very much doubt it.

    It’s a shame. I have been a customer with O2 since they were BT Genie so it’s not as if I haven’t paid them TONS of cash over the years.

  4. Jo, I have the same package and I guess we stream about the same amount? – several times a week anyway.
    I’ve never had this issue raised; I also asked the Carphone Warehouse (where I got my N95) specifically about streaming the bolt on plan and they checked with 02 (I would have gone with Orange otherwise) and confirmed it would be included.
    I use qik, Bambuser, Twibble and Gmail, and Google Maps, constantly, without O2 getting twitchy. This sounds like a complete try-on to me – don’t let them beat you…
    I hope you have a good break – you deserve it.

  5. Pete: “phone companies do not understand the internet”

    Quite the reverse. Phone companies absolutely understand the internet. As a billing opportunity.

    Pete: “… and should not be relied on to provide the infrastructure to access it”

    Possibly. Also one for the “don’t rely on shop staff to tell you the T&Cs” files, and for the “you can’t rely on free” files too.

  6. Well, every mobile network under the sun (and many ISPs) claim “unlimited” this that and the other – and of course there’s always a crafty disclaimer that unlimited doesn’t mean unlimited – so hell knows how any of them get away with it. On that point, I’ll get my pitch fork and join everyone else in the rebellion.

    Unfortunately, however wrong it is that “unlimited” is actually limited – 02’s little get-out clause isn’t really that buried. I’ve just been to their online shop, clicked “SIM Only” and there’s a clear link to “terms apply” – which says just what is quoted in the post.

    However wrong it is – its there. Getting angry with them (or other people calling them names) is unlikely to change anything. 02 are owned by a £multi-billion international company – “computer says no”.

    Unless you want to take up the “advertising standards” torch on the general “unlimited” con trick of all companies……..there’s only one solution……and it may not be popular:


    Honestly – if you’re not in the office, or at home, enjoy and absorb the world around you – engage in that world – the here and the now of where you are and who you’re with. There is nothing that 02 or anyone could possibly stream to your phone than is more amazing than just looking up at the sky.

    Seriously……bin the phone. Buy one to make calls if needs must occasionally – but you really really really really don’t need to be blasting your head with ucky phone waves on the move. Enjoy the world around you instead.

    Off my hippy soapbox now.

  7. I think half the problem is that they advertise “Unlimited usage” which always comes with the proviso of a Fair Use Policy. That basically gives them free range to charge you if you’re using it too much.
    I have the iPhone with the unlimited access and use it fairly hard. I use about 150-200MB a month, and have had no issues. Its a lot better than the 10MB I paid £5 for with Three on my last phone.
    Another issue is these companies not knowing what you can do with a phone nowadays, as you say, with Qik, and Bambuser, Fring, etc. They don’t plan for this stuff, which takes advantage of the upstream and the downstream.

    Well I hope that they don’t give you trouble. Fight them. Or tell them you will take your business elsewhere.
    They should really just offer a truly unlimited package for a bit more money.

  8. @hubba hubba

    The technologies Jo wants to use her phone for are no passive consuming ones. She’s engaging with the world and relaying that TO the internet, not merely absorbing content from it. She’s creating her own media based on her personal experiences in the world. It arguably makes one more aware of their surroundings, rather like walking around with a camera actively looking for things to photograph and, in doing so, becoming more aware of the details.

    To your “Enjoy the world around you” I’d add “and share its wonder with others.”

  9. Hay Jo,

    O2’s G3 network is probably cracking under the strain of all those shinny new iphones, Its already reported that there data network is running much slower that other UK carriers. At a guess there probably pissed at the level of upstream data your using as apposed to actual downloads.

    Your probably going to have to ration your qik’s sessions or risk getting charged..

  10. Well, I am slowly (in between work) trying to track down the fair use policies of UK mobile internet providers, just to compare.

    In additon the power of Twitter (thank you – you know who you are!) has resulted in me obtaining the contact details of a senior chap in O2. I will get in touch with him in the next few days and ask him about O2’s policy on web mobile.

    Has anyone got any questions for him?

  11. This O2 company with its fair use policy in relation to bolt-ons and tarrifs terms and condions to only use for private, personal and non-commercial use is plain SUPPRESSIVE and somebody should stop them enforcing this. I should be able to phone whoever I like whenever I like for personal or business use on any tarrif. THAT is MY business. There are good people out there trying to help others and wanting to make something of themselves aswell.

  12. I know this is an old thread, but i just have to add my 2 cents…

    To me it is quite simple, UNLIMITED means UNLIMITED.

    To use any small print or T&C’s to subvert the meaning of UNLIMITED is an insult to peoples intelligence, and the law should not allow it.

  13. Q,

    Internet service providers have abused the term “unlimited” for quite some time.

    I’m with BT Broadband, with their “unlimited” option 3, however if I use the Internet too much, the first thing they do is slow my connection down from 4Mb to 256kb (and I’m advertised 8Mb but I can’t get that due to signal noise), and a stern letter if I fall out of their ambiguous, and imaginary fair usage policy. 20GB of data in a month should set the major throttling off for the following month. BT are yet to give an quantitative figures for their usage policy.

  14. The “Unlimited” * “Fair Usage” scandal needs consumer legislation.

    I don’t think it is unreasonable to say that the vast majority of internet users or 100% of users I have spoken to feel conned by companies using these unethical tactics.

    You see, here in the UK, what business wants business gets.

    Throttling communication can only lead to slower economic growth.

  15. Hi,

    I’ve just upgraded my mobile contract with carphone warehouse. They have just given me a free bolt on promotion with unlimited internet with a 200MB fair usage policy.

    I need to know if I can have GMAIL setup on my N96 to send and receive emails on the go without going over the 200MB as I don’t have an idea of how much i will use in a month.

    Also I use fring some times so can I also use that without going over 200MB. Please advise.

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