EE has been fined £2.7m fine for 'negligence' that lead to tens of thousands of customers being overcharged.
The fine has been issued by Ofcom after an investigation by the watchdog having found that EE "broke a fundamental billing rule on two separate occasions."
The first issue saw customers who called the company's 150 customer services number while roaming within the EU incorrectly charged as if they had called the US. Ofcom said the mistake saw customers charged £1.20, instead of 19p, per minute, and a result, at least 32,145 customers were overcharged about £245,700 in total.
Ofcom blames EE's own "carelessness" and "negligence" for these billing errors and notes that while it didn't set out to make money from the mistake, the BT-owned network decided not to reimburse the majority of affected customers until Ofcom intervened
A second error saw EE continue to charge 7,674 customers calling its '150' number until 11 January 2016, despite making it free to call or text the "150" number from within the EU from 18 November 2015. In total, these customers were overcharged £2,203.33, although EE did promptly issue full refunds to those affected.
Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom"s Consumer Group Director, 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."
In a statement EE has apologised to those affected by the overcharging issue:"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."
EE admits, though, that it could not identify at least 6,900 customers who were left more than £60,000 out of pocket because of the error. The firm has said it has donated the remaining fees, around £62,000 to charity, but Ofcom has ordered the company to make further attempts to trace and refund every customer who was overcharged.
"For those customers that we could not identify, we donated the remaining excess fees to charitable causes in line with Ofcom"s guidelines," EE continued.
"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."
Last year, Ofcom ordered Vodafone to pay a £4.6m fine for serious failures in its handling of customers complaints and for poor service to its pay-as-you-go mobile customers, 10,452 of whom were left out of pocket when Vodafone failed to credit their accounts after they paid to top-up their mobile phone credit.
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