Ofcom, the UK telecoms industry regulator, just hit EE with a hefty £1 million fine for failing to properly handle customer complaints.
Ofcom announced the fine in a statement claiming EE, which currently has over 27 million customers, mishandled customer complaints that should have been referred to a special “alternative dispute resolution” (ADR) scheme between 22 July 2011 and 8 April 2014.
The ADR scheme is a free initiative that lets consumers have their grievances heard and handled by an independent body if the company in question, in this case EE, has failed to resolve their complaint after eight weeks.
Ofcom’s specific issues with EE’s handling of complaints included:
- Failure to provide customers with “accurate or adequate” information about their right to take their case to the ADR scheme, eight weeks after their initial complaint.
- Failure to tell customers how they could request the “deadlock letter” form they need to have their complaint taken to an independent body using the ADR scheme.
- Failure to send deadlock letters when they were requested, in certain instances.
- Failure to make clear the scheme is free.
Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s consumer and content group director, criticised EE for its mishandling of customer complaints, arguing the fine should act as a warning to other telecoms providers.
“It’s vital that customers can access all the information they need when they’re pursuing a complaint,” he said.
“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.”
An EE spokesperson told Business Insider the firm has since amended its complaints practices to comply with Ofcom’s guidance and is working to further improve its customer support.
“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, before Ofcom started their investigation. We have made considerable improvements since then,” the said.
“Ofcom’s current figures highlight that complaints into Ofcom about EE have fallen by 50% in the past year alone and, while even one complaint is one too many, we’re working tirelessly not only to improve the handling of complaints but also to identify root causes.”
EE is not alone in being recently fined by Ofcom for mishandling customer complaints. Ofcom fined Three £250,000 for mishandling customer complaints in October 2014.
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