EE fined £2.7m by Ofcom for overcharging customers

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More than 32,000 were incorrectly billed when phoning its customer services number while roaming within the EU, totalling £245,700  

EE has been fined £2.7 million by Ofcom for overcharging customers hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The regulatory body said the penalty was a result of an investigation into the company, which found it broke a fundamental billing rule on two separate occasions.

Ofcom stated EE customers who called the firm’s customer services number while roaming within the EU were incorrectly charged, as if they were calling the United States.

The mistake saw customers charged £1.20 per minute, instead of 19p per minute. At least 32,145 customers were overcharged, totalling around £245,700.

Intervention

Ofcom said in a statement although the mobile operator “did not set out to make money from its billing mistake, EE had decided not to reimburse the majority of affected customers until Ofcom intervened.”

The telecoms firm was intending to give the money to charity as it couldn’t identify those overcharged, which would have left customers out of pocket.

Ofcom said that in addition, even though EE made it free to call or text the customer services number from within the EU from November 18, 2015, the group continued to bill more than 7,000 customers until January 2016.

As a result, these customers were overcharged £2,203.33.

EE has 20 working days to pay the £2.7 fine. Ofcom said that the size of the fine “incorporates a 10 per cent reduction to reflect EE’s agreement to enter into a formal settlement, which will save public money and resources. As part of this agreement, EE admits and takes full responsibility for the breaches.”

The majority of affected customers have been refunded, however EE could not identify 6,905 customers who total £60,000 in charges. EE has made a payment of £62,000 to a charity in lieu of payments owed to customers. However Ofcom is requiring EE to make further attempts to trace and refund every customer who was overcharged.

‘Completely unacceptable’ 

Ofcom consumer group director Lindsey Fussell said: “EE didn’t take enough care to ensure that its customers were billed accurately. This ended up costing customers thousands of pounds, which is completely unacceptable.

EE said in a statement: “We accept these findings and apologise unreservedly to those customers affected by these technical billing issues between 2014 and 2015. We have put measures in place to prevent this from happening again, and have contacted the majority of customers to apologise and provide a full refund.”

‘Devil may care attitude’

uSwitch head of regulation Richard Neudegg said: “Whilst the Ofcom intervention has resulted in most of the customers now being reimbursed, it is especially disappointing to see that EE wasn’t able to do this from the outset, and only made headway after the regulator intervened.

Cable.co.uk consumer telecoms expert Dan Howdle added: “This fine has come about not due to mistakes made in overcharging – due to the sheer complexity of major telecoms businesses, such mistakes are incredibly common – but due to EE’s poor handling and devil may care attitude to reimbursement.”

Ofcom fined Vodafone a record £4.6m in October last year for breaches of consumer protection laws.

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