Mobile network EE has been hit with a £1m fine for failing to tell disgruntled customers that they were entitled to take their complaints to an independent arbitration service.
Under Ofcom rules, all phone and broadband providers must be members of an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme which can arbitrate between the two sides if they’re unable to resolve a complaint within an eight week period or where they reach ‘deadlock’.
An investigation by the media regulator revealed that EE was failing to tell customers about the ADR scheme or that they could request a ‘deadlock’ letter entitling them to seek help from the arbiter. In addition, a number of customers who requested a letter never received them and some were even told by EE staff that no such letters were issued.
Ofcom also discovered that paper bills sent to Orange customers and written notifications sent to Orange, 4GEE and T-Mobile customers between July 2011 and February 2014 failed to state that customers can use the ADR scheme for free.
The regulator says EE has now amended its Customer Complaints Code to include its obligation to issue a ‘deadlock letter’ and amended the information provided on its paper bills and its written notifications.
The £1m fine levied on the firm is payable to Ofcom and then passed on to the Treasury.
Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s Consumer and Content Group Director, said: “It’s vital that customers can access all the information they need when they’re pursuing a complaint. 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.”