Mobile phone company, EE, are being asked to pay fines of £2.7m by watchdog and telecoms regulator, Ofcom. The fines come after it was discovered that the company has overcharged thousands of its customers. The company, the largest mobile network operating in the UK, breached a billing rule twice. Significantly, users calling the 150 customer services number while in Europe (and roaming) were charged what it would cost to carry out a call to the US. This resulted in users paying £1.20 per minute rather than the correct figure of 19p per minute – meaning that over 32,145 customers over-paid a total of £245,000.
A further issue was that although calls to the 150 number in the EU stopped being chargeable as of 18 November 2015, EE went on to bill more than 7,600 users between 11th January 2016, with overcharge figures at £2,203.
Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s consumer group director, said to the BBC: “We all rely on big companies to get the most basic things right, and that includes charging the right bills… we uncovered a catalogue of errors.”
The fine will be directed to the Treasury.
Asked whether fining companies was a deterrent, Ms Fussell said: “We think that it’s a significant fine and that they are a good deterrent.”
EE said it accepted the results of the case and sent unreserved apologies to customers.
The majority of customers have been refunded, however EE were not able to identify a minimum of 6,900 people in deficit of more than £60,000.
EE has made a charitable donation of around £62,000 to attempt to remedy the situation – however Ofcom are insisting the company continue attempts to locate every customer affected by its errors.
Shekhar Raj Dhain, an EE customer, said he was wrongly billed last year by EE, “I rang three times about this and in the end was exasperated and quite disgusted. Eventually they credited back the difference - after ranting, which I shouldn’t have to - and gave me £20 compensation. It’s left a sour taste,” he said.
Customers who believe that they have been on the receiving end of incorrect charges can contact EE on 0800 956 6000.
In October 2016, Vodafone was fined £4.6m for “serious” breaches of consumer protection rules. The watchdog investigated the mobile operator, who it turns out had misled in excess of 10,000 pay-as-you-go customers, accepting payment for top-up credit but “providing nothing in return”, and had breached rules on conduct with customer complaints.