I have a situation where a UK utility (mobile phone) account has been inactive for more than 7 years.

The account was deleted under data retention laws (GDPR) but had a positive credit balance at the time. No attempt was made to contact the account holder and refund the credit on it.

Are the company entitled to do this, or is the account holder entitled to a refund?

In the latter case, is there any point in pursuing the case in the absence of verifiable records?

  • are you sure there was still money on the account and that it did not expire due to some other reason earlier?
    – Trish
    Oct 1, 2020 at 20:09
  • The account holder was notified by the company just before the 7-year window that it had credit. There's no reason, at least as far as I'm aware, to think that credit had been expended.
    – Brybeck
    Oct 2, 2020 at 9:05

2 Answers 2


There are two "cancellations" here. There is a contract between the customer and the company. This contract was ended. Also, as part of GDPR obligations, the data of the former customer was removed.

Now the "credit" part suggests a pre-paid phone, which are often described as "no contract". Legally this is incorrect. There is a contractual obligation for the phone company to deliver phone services (typically expressed in minutes of call time, # of text messages and/or MB of data).

Now the pre-paid contract with high likelihood had a clause which dealt with inactive accounts. For instance, the minutes of call time may expire after 5 years. A "credit" that has not been converted to minutes, messages, or megabytes may also expire. When this happened, the company might need to keep the customer data on their records for two more years (for legal reasons), so the 7 year period does not sound weird at all.

As soon as the legal reason to retain the data has ended, the GDPR indeed states that the data should be removed. That act is not connected to the credit expiring years before.



Claims (for money or otherwise) are subject to limitation periods under Statute of Limitations. For most contracts, the period is 3 years.

  • It seems to be a 6-year limit (under the Limitation Act in the UK) to chase unsecured debt. But at what time does it become a debt and liability on the part of the utility company? There's no contractual condition defining the moment an account is deemed inactive (versus active). Wouldn't that make the money on the account a liability from the moment the account is deleted?
    – Brybeck
    Oct 2, 2020 at 9:08
  • All debts are a liability- what do you mean?
    – Dale M
    Oct 2, 2020 at 11:12

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