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EE owner BT hit with £245k Ofcom fine for overcharging thousands of customers to make 118 calls

Victoria Woollaston
12 Mar 2020
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BT has been fined for failing to put a price cap on 118 calls made by EE customers for three months during 2019

BT has had its knuckles rapped, to the tune of almost a quarter of a million pounds, after it admitted to overcharging customers to make 118 calls in 2019. 

 In April 2019, Ofcom introduced new rules that set a price cap of £3.65 per 90 seconds on service charges for calls made to Directory Enquiry services. These rules applied to calls made on landlines and mobiles and were mandatory. 

However, between April and June 2019, EE – a subsidiary of BT – failed to implement these changes which led to thousands of customers being overcharged. The number of people affected is estimated to be around the 6,000 mark. 

Following a review, during which BT admitted fault, Ofcom has today imposed a £245,000 fine on the company and has deemed the offense to be a "serious breach" of the Ofcom code. 

BT and EE previously admitted fault, an original statement said the firm's breach lasted until mid-April 2019 but today's confirmation decision lists the time period being from 1 April to 26 June. Ofcom and BT entered into a settlement process at the start of this week and the decision was published on 12 March. 

Commenting on the decision, Ofcom said: "In light of the seriousness of this case, the Confirmation Decision imposes a financial penalty of £245,000 on BT. The penalty also includes a 30% discount from the penalty that Ofcom would otherwise have imposed. That discount reflects resource savings achieved by Ofcom as a result of BT’s admissions of liability and its agreement to enter into a settlement."

An EE spokesperson added: "We apologise for any inconvenience that this mistake caused to a very small number of our customers. Customers that were affected were overcharged by less than £5 on average and we quickly contacted and refunded every one of them. We have taken this very seriously and have reviewed and updated our procedures to ensure it does not happen again."

BT now has 20 working days to pay the fine, which will be passed to the HM Treasury. 

A non-confidential version of the Confirmation Decision is said to be currently being prepared and will be published shortly which will break down the specifics of the breach and the fine. 

Ernest Doku, mobiles expert at​ Uswitch.com told Expert Reviews: "EE customers will be concerned to hear that BT failed to implement Ofcom’s price cap on 118 phone numbers, resulting in thousands being overcharged for calls. Unfortunately the error is most likely to have affected older and vulnerable people, who are more inclined to use 118 numbers.

"All customers should have been refunded now, but if you think you have been affected by a similar mistake, contact your mobile company in the first instance. If you are unhappy with their response, you can take your complaint further by getting in touch with the appropriate ombudsman for your mobile provider."

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