EE has been fined £2.7m by Ofcom, the UK's telecoms regulator, for overcharging tens of thousands of its customers – and you may be one of them without even realising.
The fine follows an investigation into the mobile phone provider, which found that EE made "fundamental billing mistakes", breaking the rules on two separate occasions:
· EE customers who called the firm's 150 customer services number while roaming in the EU were incorrectly billed as if they'd made the call from the US, which saw them charged £1.20 per minute instead of 19p per minute. At least 32,145 customers were charged in this way, and were overcharged a total of £245,700.
· Despite 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 for calling the service until 11 January 2016. These customers were overcharged a total of £2,203.33.
In the first instance, the investigation found that EE's "carelessness or negligence" had contributed to the billing errors, and that the firm had decided not to reimburse the majority of affected customers until Ofcom intervened. The operator felt that it couldn't identify the people it overcharged and instead proposed to give the money to charity.
However, since the regulator got involved it's taken action to identify the affected customers and has begun refunding them, but there are still around 6,905 customers yet to be identified, who are more than £60,000 out of pocket in total. In the second case, EE took prompt action and issued a full refund to those affected, but there's clearly still work to be done.
As a result of the failings, the regulator has imposed a penalty of £2.7m to be paid within 20 working days, with the figure incorporating a 10% reduction "to reflect EE's agreement to enter into a formal settlement", which sees it take full responsibility for the breaches.
Furthermore, while the majority of customers have now been refunded, there are still almost 7,000 people yet to be repaid. EE has made a donation of just under £62,000 to charity in lieu of the payments owed, but Ofcom has required the firm to "make further attempts to trace and refund every customer who was overcharged".
"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."
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