A woman has been landed with a £440 bill for a phone SIM she says she was told was a freebie.

Sharon Shields felt she had no option but to pay the bill fear she would get a black mark on her credit score if she didn’t cough up.

The 49-year-old from Darlington got the O2 SIM last month after renewing her broadband and TV package with Virgin Media, and says she was told it’d be free as part of her new agreement.

But to her surprise a direct debit for £25 a month was set up days later by O2, which is part of the same company as Virgin.

Sharon, 52, an admin worker, said: “My broadband and TV was up for renewal at the end of January. I rang Virgin between Christmas and New Year to sort it.

The Northern Echo: Virgin Media.Virgin Media.

“The price was going up from £80 to £120 a month but they offered me a new deal for £89 which they said included a SIM for free. I was paying £10 for my phone with Sky so it made sense.

“I got a notification saying O2 set up a direct debit on my bank account for £25 a month.

“I never agreed to set up a direct debit – they’ve obviously got my bank details from Virgin.

“I tried to cancel and they sent me a bill for £438 for the rest of the contract.

“I paid it because I didn’t want it to affect my credit score if I didn’t pay, but it’s not right. I feel I was mis-sold.”

O2 said the £438 was a termination fee for the remainder of an 18-month contract at £25 a month.

The Northern Echo: O2.O2. (Image: PA)

Sharon has now been left questioning how the mobile operator was able to set up the direct debit without her agreeing, and has complained to Virgin as she believes she was mis-sold.

After being contacted by The Northern Echo, Virgin and O2 agreed to refund the £438 she had paid.

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A spokesperson said: “Ms Shields recently took out a new broadband package which included an O2 SIM.

“Whilst she has been paying the correct monthly amount, we’ve agreed on this occasion to remove the SIM from her deal and, as a gesture of goodwill, we have also refunded the early termination fee.

“Ms Shields is happy the matter is resolved.”