Ofcom disciplines EE to the tune of £2.7m for billing fail

EE has felt the wrath of Ofcom as the regulator lands a £2.7 million swipe on the operator for overcharging customers on two separate occasions.

Following an Ofcom investigation, EE was found to have broken a fundamental billing rule on two separate occasions, with almost 40,000 customers overcharged around £250,000 in total. It seems to have been a good couple of months for HM Treasury, who will benefit from the fine, following Vodafone’s £4.6 million contribution in October.

EE’s first fault was to charge customers who were calling the 150 customers services number while in Europe, as if they were calling the US. What should have been a 19p per minute call was in fact costing them £1.20 per minute. 32,145 customers were overcharged around £245,700. Secondly, once the number had been made free to call from Europe, EE charged another 7,674 dialling the number a collective total of £2,203.33, though EE did refund these customers promptly.

While Ofcom is fully entitled to handle the situation in this manner, the fine does seem a bit heavy handed considering EE has rectified the situation suitably. EE has confirmed it has refunded all customers where possible, those who left for another provider have not been refunded, and is due a slap on the wrist, though this does not seem to be on the same scale as the Vodafone blunder last year.

“We accept these findings and apologise unreservedly to those customers affected by these technical billing issues between 2014 & 2015,” said an EE spokesperson. “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.”

This appears to be another example of Ofcom trying to prove it’s not just another cumbersome, bureaucratic nightmare. The language in the press release we saw this morning reminded us of that guy who was just a little bit too much into karate as a kid. He thinks he’s really hard, constantly acts tough, says stuff like ‘I could kill you if I wanted’. It’s all a bit pathetic; nothing more than a cry for attention from public sector hall-monitors who get some power and want to prove they have an important place in the industry.

“EE didn’t take enough care to ensure that its customers were billed accurately,” said Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director. “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.”

While EE does need to be reprimanded for inadequate practices, Ofcom seems to be getting tougher in its response to violations. This could be viewed as positive action from the regulator, however it is a pity it is not as decisive in other areas, such as the BT/EE saga. And £2.7 million is more than half of Vodafone’s fine for a much bigger billing fail.

This might be an over-compensation from Ofcom, which might feel the need to demonstrate to the industry it is not favouring BT/EE. However such a disjointed approach to regulation in different segments just gives ammunition to the likes of Three and Vodafone to have a PR moan through the ‘Fix Britain’s Internet’ and ‘Make the Air Fair’ campaigns. A little bit more consistency would be appreciated.

One comment

  1. Avatar YSudhir Gupta 21/01/2017 @ 9:59 am

    In order to detect such billing mistakes by the telecom operators, Indian Regulator TRAI has a robust framework in place where the billing system of each operator is audited every year by trained third party auditors and report is submitted to the regulator. In case any discrepancy is noticed, the operator has to submit action taken report and refund any excess amount to the consumers.

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