EE fined £1m for mishandling customer complaints

After looking into the matter for over a year UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has concluded EE had been mishandling customer complaints over a three year period and consequently fined it a million pounds.

EE’s specific transgressions seem somewhat technical and not obviously deserving of such draconian punishment. In Ofcom’s own words “EE did not provide certain customers with accurate or adequate information about their right to take their complaint to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme.” The size of the fine seems influenced as much by the duration as the nature of the transgression.

ADR schemes exist to find a way of resolving a complaint when the customer and company have been unable to do so between themselves. This is typically characterised by the dispute remaining unresolved eight weeks after the initial complaint, or deadlock having been reached before that time.

It seems that UK operators are obliged to sign up to an ADR scheme and make it clear to their customers that this facility is available to them. Ofcom found that EE didn’t do this, even when complaints had reached the stage when an ADR should have been used. It’s not clear what, if any, course of action EE did take in such cases.

Additionally, even when customers had been savvy enough to request access to EE’s ADR scheme, Ofcom says EE sometimes failed to provide the ‘deadlock letter’ required and even said such letters were not provided.

This is clearly the sort of thing that makes Ofcom’s blood boil. “It’s vital that customers can access all the information they need when they’re pursuing a complaint,” said Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s Consumer and Content Group Director. “Ofcom imposes strict rules on how providers must handle complaints and treats any breach of these rules very seriously. The fine imposed against EE takes account of the serious failings that occurred in the company’s complaints handling, and the extended period over which these took place.”

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