EE Mobile network operator company has been fined £2,700,000 by Ofcom for overcharging tens of thousands of its customers.

The penalty is the result of an investigation into the mobile phone provider, which found that the company broke a fundamental billing rule on two separate occasions.

First, EE customers who called the company’s ‘150’ customer services number while roaming within the EU were incorrectly charged as if they had called the United States.

This mistake saw customers charged £1.20 per minute, instead of 19p per minute. As a result, at least 32,145 customers were overcharged around £245,700 in total.

Ofcom’s investigation found that EE’s carelessness or negligence contributed to these billing errors. In addition, while it did not set out to make money from its billing mistake, EE had decided not to reimburse the majority of affected customers until Ofcom intervened. EE wrongly decided it couldn’t identify the people it overcharged and was proposing to give their money to charity, which would have left them out of pocket.

Second, 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 up until 11 January 2016. In total, these customers were overcharged £2,203.33, although EE did take prompt action on this occasion and issued full refunds to those affected.

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.”

Financial penalty and customer refunds

As a result of these failings, Ofcom imposed a penalty of £2,700,000 on EE. The fine, which must be paid to Ofcom within 20 working days, will be passed on to HM Treasury.

The penalty incorporates a 10% reduction to reflect EE’s agreement to enter into a formal settlement, which will save public money and resources. As part of this agreement, EE admits and takes full responsibility for the breaches.

Ofcom recognises that the majority of customers have now been refunded. However, EE was unable to identify at least 6,905 customers, who were more than £60,000 out of pocket in total.

EE has made a donation of just under £62,000 to charity in lieu of the payments owed to these customers. However, in addition to today’s fine, Ofcom is requiring EE to make further attempts to trace and refund every customer who was overcharged.

Source: Ofcom – 18 January 2017

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