Ofcom fines BT £245,000 for overcharging EE customers

EE customers were overcharged for 118 calls

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Ofcom has fined BT £245,000 after an investigation found that the company overcharged EE’s mobile customers for making calls to 118 directory enquiries services.

Although use of directory enquiries has declined in recent years, many people still rely on them as an important means of obtaining the number they need. Older people and those without internet access are more likely to make 118 calls.

To protect vulnerable people and ensure fairer prices, Ofcom introduced a price cap on 118 phone numbers in April 2019. Our investigation found that BT did not implement this immediately for EE customers.

As a result, over a three-month period, between April and June last year, almost 6,000 EE customers were overcharged by around £42,000 for making calls to 118 numbers. However, BT was able to correct most bills before EE customers paid them. This meant that around £10,000 of the total amount overcharged was paid by EE customers. All customers have since been refunded.

Ofcom and BT entered into a settlement process and BT wrote to Ofcom on 10 March 2020, admitting its liability in relation to the nature, scope and duration of the contravention. BT took steps to remedy fully the consequences of the breach. In particular, BT has repaid in full those customers that paid too much for a call to a directory enquiry service and put in place steps to minimise the risk of similar issues occurring in future.

Ofcom considered several factors that made this a serious breach:

  • the potential vulnerability of some of the consumers affected;
  • the system failures that contributed to the contravention; and
  • EE’s poor record of compliance with its regulatory obligations.

The penalty includes a 30% discount which reflects resource savings achieved by Ofcom as a result of BT’s admissions of liability and its agreement to enter into a settlement.

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