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.
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."
If you’ve have a complaint about a financial service product you have bought but the company you bought it from refuses to resolve your problem after eight weeks, the Ombudsman can help. The Ombudsman will investigate and resolve the matter. The Ombudsman is independent and its service is free to consumers. The Ombudsman may find in the company’s favour but consumers don’t have accept its decision and are always free to go to court instead. But if they do accept an Ombudsman’s decision, it is binding both on them and on the business.