UK mobile operator EE (formerly T-Mobile Orange)
UK mobile operator EE has been fined £1m by Ofcom for not adequately informing customers about their right to use alternative dispute resolution schemes if a complaint could not be resolvedReuters

Mobile operator EE has been find £1m by the UK communications regulator Ofcom for failing to give its customers accurate or adequate information regarding the customer complaints process.

Ofcom found during an investigation into EE's practices that between 22 July 2011 and 8 April 2014 the mobile operator had failed to send out written notifications to a number of customers about their right to take their complaint to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme after eight weeks had passed since their first complaint was raised.

The regulator found that EE had failed to state in its Customer Complaints Code that customers were allowed to access EE's own ADR scheme by requesting a deadlock letter if the mobile operator and the customer could not come to a resolution about the problem, and that a number of customers who did request such a letter did not receive it.

It also emerged in some cases that customers who requested the deadlock letter were told by EE staff that letters of this type were not issued at all.

Finally, Ofcom found that between the same time period, EE had failed to provide information about the fact that its ADR scheme could be accessed by Orange, T-Mobile and 4GEE customers for free in paper bills or written notifications sent to customers.

"It's vital that customers can access all the information they need when they're pursuing a complaint," said Ofcom's Consumer and Content Group Director Claudio Pollack.

"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."

Historic performance

According to Ofcom, all communications providers who offer services to individuals or small businesses with up to 10 employees must be members of one of the UK's two approved ADR schemes, and access to this ADR service is always free of charge to customers.

Communications providers also need to make sure that they are providing customers with information about the ADR scheme and how to make a complaint in an easily understandable and accessible way, and all paper bills must carry information about the customer's right to use ADR in order to resolve problems.

EE told IBTimes UK in a statement: "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, before Ofcom started their investigation. We have made considerable improvements since then.

"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, and fix problems customers have with us, to ultimately achieve our goal of offering the best service in the market."