EE has been fined £2.7m by Ofcom for overcharging over 30,000 customers who used its ‘150’ customer services number. The communications regulator found that the mobile network operator had broken billing rules on two separate occasions.
The first occurred when at least 32,145 customers abroad in the EU, who called the customer services number, were charged £1.20 per minute, instead of 19p. This meant customers were charged as if they had called from the US. In total, customers were overcharged around £245,700.
The second, although making it free to call or text the ‘150’ number from within the EU from 18 November 2015, EE continued to bill 7,674 customers until 11 January 2016. This resulted in the customers being overcharged a total of £2,203.33, however EE did issue refunds to all of these customers.
“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,” said Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s consumer group director. “We monitor how phone companies bill their customers, and will not tolerate careless mistakes. Any company that breaks Ofcom’s rules should expect similar consequences.”
Ofcom says it recognises that the majority of customers have now been refunded. However, EE has been unable to identify at least 6,905 customers – who were, in total, more than £60,000 out of pocket.
The £2.7m fine imposed on EE must be paid within 20 working days to HM Treasury.
"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,” said Dan Howdle, consumer telecoms expert at Cable.co.uk.
"Providers across the entire sector should see this as a stark warning: Fix your mistakes or there will be consequences. This morning, other major providers will be taking a long, hard look at both their billing rules and the methods used to address errors made."