EE customers were mistakenly overcharged thousands
EE has been fined £2.7 million by Ofcom for overcharging tens of thousands of customers.
An investigation into EE found that the mobile phone company had broken a "fundamental billing rule" on two separate occasions, resulting in almost 40,000 customers being overcharged around £250,000.
Communications regulator Ofcom, who conducted the investigation, accused EE of "carelessness or negligence".
Although EE did not purposely set out to make money from the billing error, Ofcom discovered that EE had decided not to reimburse the majority of affected customers until the regulator intervened.
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."
Can EE customers claim back any money from the billing problems?
The billing mistake occurred when EE customers who phoned the company’s 150 customer services number while roaming within the EU were incorrectly charged as if they had called the United States.
This mistake saw customers charged £1.20 per minute, instead of 19p per minute. As a result, at least 32,145 customers were overcharged around £245,700 in total.
Another billing mistake saw EE continue to bill 7,674 customers for calling and texting 150 within the EU – despite pledging to make the number free from November 18th 2015.
In total, these customers were overcharged £2,203.33, although EE did take prompt action on this occasion and issued full refunds to those affected, Ofcom confirmed.
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So, can EE customers claim back any money from the billing problems?
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Well, the vast majority of customers who were hit by the billing problems have already been refunded.
After Ofcom intervened, EE refunded some 32,914 of the 39,819 customers who were overcharged during the two billing mistakes.
However, EE was unable to identify at least 6,905 customers, who were more than £60,000 out of pocket in total.
But those customers are no longer able to claim either, since EE has now made a donation of just under £62,000 to charity in lieu of the payments owed to these customers.
For customers who were not automatically refunded by EE and have since left the mobile firm, EE will send out a letter to arrange a refund.
EE has also created a freephone number for any customers who are no longer on an EE or T-Mobile price plan who want to talk about the overcharging – 0800 079 0216.
EE told Express.co.uk that its customer service advisors will be able to verify if someone was impacted by the error, and whether credits have been applied.
Ofcom today imposed a penalty of £2,700,000 on EE.
The fine, which must be paid to Ofcom within 20 working days, will be passed on to HM Treasury.
According to Ofcom, the penalty incorporates a 10 per cent reduction to reflect EE’s agreement to enter into a formal settlement, which will save public money and resources.
As part of this agreement, EE admits and takes full responsibility for the breaches.
Director of Campaigns and Communications at Which? Vickie Sheriff said: "If it wasn't for the regulator's intervention, thousands of customers would have been out of pocket due to EE's mistakes.
"Customers shouldn't have to wait for the regulator to step in to get an apology and their money back."
A spokesperson for EE said: "We accept these findings and apologise unreservedly to those customers affected by these technical billing issues between 2014 & 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."