EE fined £1m for failing customers


Mobile phone network operator EE has been fined £1 million by the telecoms regulator Ofcom for failures in the way it has been handling customer complaints.

The regulator found that between 22 July 2011 and 8 April 2014, EE failed to inform customers that, if they were not happy with how EE had dealt with their complaint, they could take their case to an  alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme.

EE, which includes its T-Mobile and Orange brands, failed to publish this information within its Customer Complaints Code and also failed to tell customers they needed a "deadlock letter" to access the ADR scheme.

Moreover, some customers who had requested a deadlock letter did not receive one, with many told that EE simply couldn't issue the letters.

Consumer protection

ADR is an important part of consumer protection, Ofcom says. It allows customers to refer complaints that cannot be resolved with their provider to an independent body which can reach an impartial judgment.

There are two bodies that take on the disputes – the Communications and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme (CISAS) and Ombudsman Services: Communications - though EE is a member of the former.

Customers can only use an ADR scheme after eight weeks and once they are in possession of a deadlock letter that states a stalemate has been reached between them and the company.

The £1 million fine - which must be paid within 20 days - will be handed to the Treasury by Ofcom.

Claudio Pollack, Ofcom's consumer and content group director, said: "It's vital that customers can access all the information they need when they're pursuing a complaint.

"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."

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, welcomed the fine. He said: “Telecoms are now an essential part of people's lives, so it’s disappointing customer complaints haven't been dealt with fairly. Companies won't always get it right and that's why it's important people feel protected and empowered to escalate their complaint to get their issue resolved.”
Since Ofcom's investigation, EE has amended its Customer Complaints Code to include the correct references and has also amended the information that appears on bills.

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