EE has today been fined £2.7 million by regulator Ofcom for its "carelessness or negligence" in overcharging customers who sought its help while roaming in the EU.
Ofcom found that customers calling the network's 150 mobile helpline from EU countries other than the UK were hit by two separate charging errors between 2014 and 2016:
- Customers charged US prices: Between 1 July 2014 and 20 July 2015 EE customers who called 150 while roaming in the EU were incorrectly charged, as if they'd called the United States. This meant they were charged £1.20/minute instead of 19p/minute. In total, 32,145 customers were overcharged by about £245,700 – an average of £7.64 each.
- Customers charged for free calls: Despite making it free to call or text the 150 number from within the EU from 18 November 2015, EE then charged 7,674 customers for doing so up until 11 January 2016. In total, these customers overpaid by £2,203.33 – an average of 29p each.
While all victims of the second error were promptly identified and refunded by EE, those affected by the first, more costly error were not – with EE initially deciding not to reimburse them until Ofcom intervened.
According to the regulator, EE "wrongly decided" it couldn't identify the people charged US calling rates and instead proposed to give their money to charity, which would have left those customers out of pocket.
Of the 32,145 customers affected by that error, EE has now identified and refunded most of them. However at least 6,905 customers remain untraced – in some cases because they've left EE. Their £62,000 overpayments have now been donated to charity.
Ofcom insists it's still "requiring EE to make further attempts to trace and refund every customer who was overcharged".
I think I've been overcharged - what should I do?
EE says it’s now proactively writing to customers who were overcharged but have since left EE. But in the meantime, if you’re worried you’ve been overcharged, here’s what to try:
1. Check if you’re likely to have been affected. You’ll need to have been an EE customer at some point between 1 July 2014 and 20 July 2015, and used your mobile elsewhere in the EU.
2. Check your bills (if you can). If you called the network’s 150 mobile helpline while roaming in the EU, you may have been overcharged. Check what you paid. You should have been charged 19p/minute but some were charged £1.20/minute.
3. Contact EE and ask it to investigate. If you think you may have been overcharged and you haven’t received a refund, contact EE. It’s set up a special freephone number for this – 0800 079 0216.
4. Still unhappy? Complain. You can file a complaint direct with EE, or use the free complaints tool Resolver to do so. If you’re still unhappy with the way EE handles your complaint, you can complain to the Ombudsman Services: Communications – or if you used Resolver, get it to escalate your complaint for you.
What does Ofcom say?
Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom's consumer group director, says: "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."
What does EE say?
An EE spokesperson says: "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.
"Providing the best network experience and best customer service for EE customers in store, online and over the phone through our UK- and Ireland-based centres are our top priorities. Following Ofcom's findings, we have made a number of additional improvements to our systems and policies to allow us to better support our customers in the rare occasion that billing issues do occur."