Mobile phone providers give us a lot to talk about. We’re using their services more than ever. Understandably how they go about providing us with a service should always be under scrutiny. This week it was EE’s turn in the spotlight…
EE fined £2.7 million for overcharging customers
This isn’t the first time. Back in July 2015 EE were fined for not handling complaints properly. Now, this week they’ve been fined £2,700,000 by Ofcom for overcharging tens of thousands of customers.
You’d hope they’d have learned from the first time.
But now they’re facing a fine for more than ten times the amount that they’d overcharged. And it could have been more. The fine was reduced by 10% because EE took full responsibility for their indiscretion.
So, how did this all come about?
Basically EE were incorrectly billing users when they made calls to their own customer services number, ‘150’. Initially users were billed as if they were calling the USA (costing £1.20 a minute) instead of the EU roaming charge of 19p a minute.
But then, when EE made it free to call 150 when in the EU from November 2015, they continued to charge users up until January 2016.
Combined they overcharged nearly 40,000 users by about £250,000.
In Ofcom’s statement they say that EE didn’t set out to make money. The key issue with all this is that EE didn’t really try to rectify the issues. EE said they couldn’t identify who had been affected. But with pressure from Ofcom they actually were able to, and most customers received refunds.
The remaining £60,000 that couldn't be returned has been donated to charity.
<p>“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.</p> <p>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.”</p>
Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director
Call to action - Make the air fair
Does EE’s actions show that there’s a bigger issue in the mobile operator market? Since BT and EE merged, they own 42% of the UK’s usable mobile spectrum. Spectrum is the single most important asset for a mobile operator. It dictates how good, fast and reliable their service is.
So, having 42% of the spectrum could be seen as a good thing. BT/EE should be able to provide a great service.
But where’s the competition?
BT/EE having 42% of the spectrum means that the UK has the largest imbalance in spectrum holdings among the G20 nations. Can we actually do anything about this imbalance?
Visit www.maketheairfair.org and add your signature to an open letter to Sharon White
Ultimately it’s down to Ofcom. They’re responsible for how the spectrum is auctioned out to operators. But before they make any decisions Ofcom always has a consultation period; they are after all accountable to us. Their purpose is to protect consumers.
This is where we can all make some noise and put pressure on CEO of Ofcom, Sharon White, to make the right decision. If we can redress the imbalance we’ll have a better choice of mobile operators with more competitive pricing.
There’s lots more information available on the site about the spectrum auction and its importance.
We want the best service available, but we also want the best choice. Imbalance doesn’t equal choice.