UK operator EE was fined £2.7 million by regulator Ofcom for billing issues which led to customers being overcharged by a total of £250,000.
The error impacted at least 32,145 subscribers who were charged US international call rates when using EE’s customer service line while roaming in the European Union between July 2014 and July 2015.
EE initially reported it was unable to identify the majority of customers involved and offered to make a charity donation rather than process individual refunds.
However, Ofcom concluded EE could identify most of the impacted customers. In its judgement, Ofcom said the company’s carelessness or negligence contributed to the mistake and ordered it to pay refunds where possible, with money owed to consumers who couldn’t be identified – totalling £62,000 – donated to charity.
Ofcom Consumer Group director Lindsey Fussell 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.”
Ofcom noted EE acted promptly to reimburse a further 7,674 subscribers who were billed for calling or texting customer services while roaming in the EU after EE eliminated fees for the service in November 2015.
In a statement emailed to Mobile World Live EE said it had introduced new systems and policies to allow it to “better support our customers in the rare occasion that billing issues do occur.”
The company said: “We accept these findings and apologise unreservedly to those customers affected by these technical billing issues between 2014 and 2015. 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.”
Today’s fine is the second time Ofcom imposed a multi-million pound fine on a UK operator for billing system problems in the past six months. In October the regulator charged Vodafone UK a record £4.6 million for failing to register pre-pay top-ups and subsequent customer care issues.