Are Mobile Phone Companies Ripping Us Off?

Big phone company EE has been fined £2.7m for overcharging customers. #EExposed

Are Mobile Phone Companies Ripping Us Off?

by Katie Russell |
Published on

Everyone has a horror story about their phone bill. I remember going to Kavos in the summer before I went to university (edgy, I know) and forgetting to turn off my data. I was charged £20 and had only been in the country for two hours.

But now big telephone company EE is under fire for overcharging its customers. Ofcom has fined the company £2.7m as a very expensive slap on the wrist that they hope will act as a deterrent for the future.

**So what happened? **

EE made two big errors. Firstly, mobile phone users who called the customers’ service number 150 whilst holidaying in Europe were charged the same price as if they had made a call to the US. That means they were charged £1.20 a minute instead of 19p. And you can bet they were on the phone for more than a minute, since customer service is notoriously crap.

32,145 customers have been charged over £245,700 in total. But that’s not all. In a bizarre twist, EE actually made their 150 service free in November 2015 but 7,674 customers were charged until 11 January 2016.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s consumer group director, told the BBC that this is not OK. ‘We all rely on big companies to get the most basic things right, and that includes charging the right bills…we uncovered a catalogue of errors.’

What are EE doing about it?

Initially, EE told Ofcom they had no way of finding out who had been wrongly charged. Ofcom wasn’t prepared to take this as an answer. As they wrote on their site ‘EE had decided not to reimburse the majority of affected customers until Ofcom intervened.’ #EExposed.

After Ofcom put their foot down, EE refunded most of their customers. Yet they have been unable to identify at least 6,905 customers who are collectively owed £60,000. So they decided to donate £62,000 to charity. That’s nice of them and all, but Ofcom have said it’s not enough, since so many customers are still out of pocket. EE have now been asked to trace and refund every customer who has been overcharged.

Aside from refunding the money and paying the heavy fine to the Treasury, EE have taken to Twitter to personally apologise to customers.

But many are enjoying this is David and Goliath-style take-down

The Bigger Picture

This isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened. Back in July 2015 EE were fined £1m by Ofcom over its poor handling of customer complaints.

But EE is not the only culprit. In fact, in October 2016 Vodafone was charged £4.6m for mis-selling and giving terrible customer service.

This is all part of a bigger problem. Phone companies are consistently hitting us with shocking phone bills, but most of us are completely oblivious. We have to keep ourselves informed and not pay a penny more than we owe.

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Follow Katie on Twitter @KatieRussell_16

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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