Ofcom has issued a £1m fine to EE for ‘serious failings’ over the handling of customer complaints.
From 2011 to 2014, Ofcom claims, EE did not provide customers with information about how to take complaints to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
The ADR option allows customers to refer unresolvable complaints to an independent body, eight weeks after a complaint is filed. The network were fined for failing to notify customers that the scheme was available. Three was accused of a similar Ofcom rule breach in 2014, when the network incurred a fine of £250,000 for failing to inform customers of the ADR scheme.
EE described its customer complaints handling as inexcusable, explaining that since Ofcom’s investigation the network has taken strides to improve its performance.
A spokesperson said: ‘This fine relates to our historic performance regarding complaints handling, collected from 2011 to April 2014. While this is 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.
‘We have made considerable improvements since then. Ofcom’s current figures show that EE complaints have fallen by 50% in the past year and, while one complaint is one too many, we’re working to improve complaint handling and identify root causes.’
In order to access the ADR scheme customers require a ‘deadlock’ letter’, a fact which EE did not state in its customer complaints code. Ofcom also found that EE denied access to those requesting a letter.
Claudio Pollack, Ofcom's consumer and content group director, described the breach as a ‘serious failing’ from the network. She said: ‘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.’
The fine follows Ofcom’s latest report in which EE came second to Vodafone for generating the highest number of customer complaints.
EE has since amended its customer complaints code, as well as information that is provided on its paper bills. The network will be required to pay the full fine within 20 working days.