UK regulator Ofcom has fined EE £1m for repeatedly failing to abide by rules on dealing with customer complaints.
EE was investigated from July 2011 to April 2014, and Ofcom identified enough problems with EE's response to customer problems and complaints to issue the fine.
The operator did not give customers "adequate information" about an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme to which they could have turned if they believed that their problem had not been dealt with satisfactorily.
"EE failed to send out written notifications to a number of customers that should have referenced their right to take their complaint to ADR eight weeks after they first raised their complaint," Ofcom said.
"EE also failed to state in its Customer Complaints Code that, where relevant, customers could access its ADR scheme by requesting a ‘deadlock letter'.
"A number of customers who had requested a ‘deadlock letter' during this time were not sent them as required, and in some cases customers were told by EE that letters of this type were not issued."
@Ofcom interesting. I had a complaint recently and they did NOT mention the ADR scheme. Worse CS I've ever come across. Rude and unhelpful.— Neil Westwood (@True_Romance) July 3, 2015
Ofcom said that information about the free dispute resolution system should have been made available on paper bills and other communications sent to EE customers, but was not.
"It's vital that customers can access all the information they need when they're pursuing a complaint," said Claudio Pollack, Ofcom's consumer and content group director.
"Ofcom imposes strict rules on how providers must handle complaints, and treats any breach of these rules very seriously.
"The fine imposed against EE takes account of the serious failings that occurred in the company's complaints handling, and the extended period over which these took place."
EE must amend its communications and pay the financial penalty within 20 days.
The company accepted its lot, saying in a statement that it is aware of the problems and has been working to tackle them.
"This fine relates to our historic performance. While this in no way excuses it, it is important to note that we identified issues in our complaints handling and began our programme to tackle these problems head on in 2013, before Ofcom started their investigation. We have made considerable improvements since then," it said.
"Ofcom's current figures highlight that complaints into Ofcom about EE have fallen by 50 percent in the past year alone and, while even one complaint is one too many, we're working tirelessly to improve the handling of complaints and identify root causes, and fix problems customers have with us, to ultimately achieve our goal of offering the best service in the market."
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