Expiring EE SIM cards a data rip-off

12 October 2018

Moneywise helps a reader who feels ripped off.

Last year, I bought a data SIM card from EE. It holds 24GB of data and cost between £80 and £100. I planned to use it when I had used up my current SIM card.

But there was a problem with my current SIM, so I took the unopened still-sealed packet into my local EE shop and said I was worried I might have a problem with that too. It turned out the number had been recycled and the data voided. They then told me I had to use the data within three months of buying it.

That has never been the case before. The 24GB card lasts a year from the date of activation. But the sales assistant said that you have to start using it – activate it – within three months of buying it, then you have to use all the data within one year of activation or lose it.

That didn’t make sense. They are unregistered SIM cards that are not associated with an account when you buy them. You have to register them and activate them to make them work.

The man in the shop said that because I bought the card a year ago, it had expired as I did not activate it within three months. How was I supposed to know this? On the front of the card it said it was valid until 2025!

I feel ripped off by EE. Can you help?

AS, Chester

It does seem a rip-off, so I contacted EE for an explanation. It told me that it is actually an Ofcom requirement to close SIM accounts that aren’t used. Apparently, it’s because it needs to recycle numbers to cope with the huge demand for new numbers.

The company told me: “As is standard across the mobile industry, after a certain period of inactivity, Pay As You Go accounts are automatically closed. This is a requirement as set by Ofcom.

“To keep a Pay As You Go account active, the account holder simply needs to make one chargeable call or send one chargeable text during a 180-day period.”

EE says it sends reminders to customers to explain that due to inactivity their account is likely to be suspended and, even after this, customers have a further 90 days to reactivate their number by contacting the firm’s customer services team.

That sounds fair, if you know that is the case. But even though she had been buying SIM cards for years this way, AS said she had never been informed.

She told me: “It may well be there in the small print in the T&Cs, but it wasn’t clear to me. The only clear thing is that EE has taken £100 of my money for nothing.”

EE refused to refund the money, but offered AS £20 as a gesture of goodwill. She turned that down and has taken her complaint to the Communications Ombudsman – and believes she has a good case.

I’m surprised that EE didn’t respond positively, but it’s a warning to other readers: check carefully the terms and conditions of anything you buy if you don’t want to be ripped off.

OUTCOME: Reader rejects £20 compensation and turns to the ombudsman


In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I fail to understand why anyone uses EE. They aren't cheap, they aren't customer friendly. The only attraction seems to be cashback offers.I had 15 happy years with Orange, as soon as EE took over I lost my "free for life" broadband, I was sold a faulty phone on a 24 month contract. EE were ringing me constantly with updates until the phone was three months old - then they claimed it was out of warranty. Then they kept cutting off family members PAYG Sims without any text warnings. I have spoken to customer services in countries I didn't even know existed - some with staff who don't speak English. There are better companies out there. EE will never learn until they have no customers left.

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