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EE fined £2.7m by Ofcom after overcharging thousands of customers

Wednesday, January 18th 2017 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

EE has been fined 2.7m by Ofcom for overcharging tens of thousands of people for using its ‘150’ customer service number.

Customers calling 150 while roaming within the EU were charged as if they had called the United States, costing them £1.20 per minute instead of the 19p a minute they should have paid.

At least 32,145 customers were overcharged a total of around £245,700.

An investigation by Ofcom found that “carelessness or negligence” on the part of EE had contributed to the billing errors.

Ofcom found that while EE had not set out to make money from its mistake, it had decided not to reimburse the majority of customers until Ofcom intervened.

Most customers have now been refunded and for those that EE couldn’t identify, the company has made a donation to charity.

On a separate occasion, EE billed 7,674 customers for texting the 150 number, despite having made it free to use the service.

Between 18 November 2015, when EE made it free to text or call 150 from within the EU, and 11 January 2016, these customers were overcharged a total of £2,203.33.

Ofcom said that on this occasion, EE did take prompt action and issued full refunds to those affected.

The fine of £2.7m includes a 10% reduction to reflect “EE’s agreement to enter into a formal settlement” and must be paid to Ofcom within 20 working days.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s consumer group director, 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.

“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.”

'Best network experience'

An EE spokesperson said: "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. For those customers that we could not identify, we donated the remaining excess fees to charitable causes in line with Ofcom’s guidelines.

“Providing the best network experience and best customer service for EE customers in store, online and over the phone through our UK and Ireland-based centres are our top priorities.

"Following Ofcom’s findings, we have made a number of additional improvements to our systems and policies to allow us to better support our customers in the rare occasion that billing issues do occur.”

Today isn’t the first time Ofcom has fined EE for breaching its rules.

In July 2015, the regulator fined EE £1m for “serious failings” in its complaints handling procedures.

The company had not given customers correct information about their right to take complaints to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme.

In October 2016, Ofcom fined Vodafone £4.6m for “serious and sustained” breaches of customer protection rules.

Two investigations found that Vodafone had failed to credit the account of thousands of pay-as-you-go mobile customers after they topped up and had not complied with rules on handling customer complaints.

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