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Giffgaff Ltd.
Type Subsidiary
Industry Telecommunications
Founded Slough, Berkshire, United Kingdom (25 November 2009)
Founder(s) Gav Thompson[1]
Headquarters Uxbridge, Greater London, United Kingdom[2]
Area served United Kingdom
Key people Mike Fairman (CEO)
Richard Apletree (CFO)[3]
Products Mobile telecommunications products and services
Owner(s) Telefónica UK Ltd.

Giffgaff (marketed as giffgaff) is a mobile telephone network running as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) using the United Kingdom O2 network. Owned by Telefónica, Giffgaff was launched on 25 November 2009.[4]

Giffgaff has become known for using its members to help with company operation, rewarding members for promoting the network and providing support to other members on a community forum. In return for these services the members receive remuneration through a system called "Payback".


Giffgaff is an ancient Scottish term meaning "mutual giving",[5] and was chosen to fit around the principles outlined within the giffgaff manifesto.[6]The slogan for Giffgaff, "The Mobile Network run by You", reflects the fact that many users of this service help to run the many aspects of Giffgaff operation.

Within 2010, their first year of operation, Giffgaff won two industry awards, the Forrester Groundswell Award in November, also the Most Innovative Community Award at the Social CRM Customer Excellence Awards.[7][8] In November Giffgaff were nominated as the only finalist for the Marketing Society's Brand of the Year but lost to the department store John Lewis.[9]

In June 2012, Giffgaff were named best MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) in the Mobile Industry Awards.[10]


Giffgaff offices are based in Uxbridge in Greater London, their office space originally designed by Reckless Designs[11]

Giffgaff operates as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) on the O2 UK network, meaning that all calls, texts and data utilise the O2 UK cell infrastructure.

For customer service enquiries the MVNO uses a mixture of forum based customer support for general queries, whereas account based queries are handled by a third party company Firstsource[12]

Products and services[edit]

Mobile service[edit]

Giffgaff SIM card

At launch, the first product was a prepaid SIM card providing all standard 2G and 3G mobile phone services, charged on a pay as you use basis. After launch, bundles of minutes, texts and data, called goodybags, were introduced. The idea for bundles emerged from members on the ideas platform.

Goodybags have been a huge success for the network, mainly due to the unlimited internet with no fair use policy on many of the goodybags. In June 2012 it was announced that customers would be able to set goodybags to renew automatically once a debit or credit card was saved on the site. [13]

On October 17th 2012 Giffgaff added data only goodybags, called gigabags, to their lineup of products. [14]

In March 2014 Giffgaff announced that it would add a line of 4G LTE goodybags available for purchase from April 2014. [15]

Mobile phones[edit]

In November 2013 Giffgaff started selling a range of mobile phone handsets, [16] offering initially a range of 22 devices from seven manufacturers.

Devices can be paid for outright or in stages through peer to peer finance handled by Ratesetter.[17]

Giffgaff labs[edit]

New product ideas are initially tested at Giffgaff labs and are made available to all members for a short period.[18] If a new product idea proves to be popular it may be incorporated into the main product, otherwise is withdrawn. The labs' products are Beta Tested by selected community members before release.

The first product from Giffgaff labs, introduced in September 2010, included calls for 2p and texts for 1p in return for a monthly payment of £5.00.[19] The product was withdrawn after a trial period.

The second labs product, introduced in December 2010, was nicknamed "Hokey Cokey". For £5.00 customers were allocated 60 minutes talk time, 300 texts (SMS) and a free extra minute for every eligible incoming minute.[20] In June 2011 "Hokey Cokey" became an official product and later on 20MB of data was added to the goodybag.[21]


In July 2010, two iPhone apps and a Nokia app, were released to help users manage their account and gain access the Community.[22][23] A notable part of these announcements is that these applications were produced by members of the community, rather than Giffgaff itself. Members are allowed to develop their own applications (apps) for both Android and Windows telephones, there is yet no official app for these platforms.

In May 2012, Giffgaff accepted a community generated idea to create an official app that would provide users with an alternative way to top-up and buy goodybags. This was released in October 2012 for the iPhone only.[24]

In October 2012 an App for the iPhone was released that was developed by a Giffgaff community member. This member later became an employee of giffgaff. This App (application) is now the official version.[25]

Community involvement[edit]

Giffgaff differentiates itself by involving the wider user community in certain aspects of its operations. This is primarily provided through a dedicated forum platform supplied by Lithium Technologies[26]

  • When a Giffgaff member passes a SIM to a friend (or anyone) the existing member receives 500 'Payback Points' (worth £5.00) when the SIM is activated. Their friend will receive £5.00 free credit when they activate their sim (by topping up with a minimum amount of £10.00)[27]
  • By contributing to the Giffgaff community within the forums a monthly points allocation is awarded in proportion to the effort spent.[27]
  • Occasional schemes allow members to earn points in return for marketing promotions.[28]

Each point is equal to one one penny and they are redeemed by users every six months through a mechanism called payback. The first payback was made on 15 June 2010.

In June 2013, Giffgaff paid out nearly £2 million to customers, £12,200 to Great Ormond Street Hospital and £12,200 to Water Aid.[29]


Unlimited internet[edit]

After goodybags with unlimited internet allowance were introduced, complaints were made to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) from customers who had their internet access disabled. The reason given by Giffgaff for their disconnection was a clause in the terms and conditions stating [We may disconnect you] "If you do anything...which we reasonably think adversely impacts the Service to other giffgaff customers or may adversely affect the Network".

The complaint was not upheld by the ASA who concluded that unlimited internet was advertised correctly. However Giffgaff noted that their customer service agents had used the clause above incorrectly and promised to rectify this. [30]

Advertising campaigns[edit]

In May 2013 Giffgaff ran an online and television advertising campaign with the strapline "Don't be scared" which featured zombies converging on a village. Although the television advert appeared after the 9pm watershed, the ASA received 105 complaints. The ASA did not uphold the complaints, stating that it was not in breach of any BCAP rules.[31]

In October 2013 Giffgaff ran two adverts in an online campaign with the strapline "Different takes guts". The advert featured a crowd of people dressed in white in an empty swimming pool throwing guts at each other. The ASA upheld the complaints that the content was in violation of BCAP rules for harm and offence and also BCAP rule 5.1 because the advert was not suitably age rated. It was recommended that the advert not appear again in its current form. [32]


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  3. ^ "The Team". Retrieved 2013-09-20. 
  4. ^ Bradshaw, Tim (3 January 2010). "Original ideas suggest customer knows best". Financial Times. Retrieved 2010-01-13. 
  5. ^ "Giffgaff at". Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
  6. ^ "Giffgaff manifesto". Giffgaff. Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
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  8. ^ giffgaff: winner of Most Innovative Community award (20 May 2010). "Social CRM Excellence award". Retrieved 2010-12-23. 
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  10. ^ "Winners 2012". Mobile Industry Awards. Mobile Today. Retrieved 2012-08-27. 
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  14. ^ Cutlag, Gary. "GiffGaff Unlocks Tethering Potential With Gigabags Mobile Data Plans". Gizmodo. Gizmodo UK. Retrieved 15 March 2014. 
  15. ^ Campbell, Matthew. "giffgaff to launch 4G service in April". Mobile Today, Industry. Mobile Today. Retrieved 15 March 2014. 
  16. ^ "Buy a phone from giffgaff... and pay monthly". giffgaff Blog. giffgaff. Retrieved 6 November 2013. 
  17. ^ "What is P2P?". Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  18. ^ "launch of giffgaff labs". Retrieved 2010-12-23. 
  19. ^ "giffgaff labs – a great idea! Inspired (partly) by King Charles....". Giffgaff. Retrieved 10 April 2013. 
  20. ^ "What is the giffgaff labs". Retrieved 2011-01-26. 
  21. ^ "UK MVNO giffgaff makes Hockey Cockey a permanent feature + set to charge for data". MVNO Dynamics. MVNO Dynamics. Retrieved 15 March 2014. 
  22. ^ Our first giffgaff iPhone apps (20 July 2010). "Launch of first iPhone apps". Retrieved 2010-12-23. 
  23. ^ First giffgaff app in the Nokia Ovi Store (30 July 2010). "Launch of app in Nokia Ovi store". Retrieved 2010-12-23. 
  24. ^ Snell, Gregory (14 April 2012). "giffgaff App Developed or Endorsed by giffgaff". Retrieved 2012-05-30. 
  25. ^ "Meet the official giffgaff iPhone app". 2012-11-20. Retrieved 2013-09-20. 
  26. ^ "Giffgaff". Lithium customer success stories. Lithium technologies. Retrieved 15 March 2014. 
  27. ^ a b "Guide to payback points". Giffgaff knowledge base. Giffgaff. Retrieved 10 April 2013. 
  28. ^ "giffgaff tool hire". Retrieved 2013-09-20. 
  29. ^ "Paying back nearly £2million to our members – The giffgaff community". 2013-06-14. Retrieved 2013-09-20. 
  30. ^ "ASA Adjudication on giffgaff Ltd A12-192632". Adjudications. Advertising Standards Agency. Retrieved 15 March 2014. 
  31. ^ "ASA Adjudication on giffgaff Ltd A13-248779". Adjudications. Advertising Standards Agency. Retrieved 15 March 2014. 
  32. ^ "ASA Adjudication on giffgaff Ltd A13-248779". Adjudications. Advertising Standards Agency. Retrieved 15 March 2014. 

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