(Pocket-lint) - Ofcom has fined EE a staggering £1 million for not treating customer complaints in the proper manner, as according to the code of practice set by the UK's communications regulator and agreed by all networks.
EE, it ruled, failed to inform customers complaining about its 4GEE, Orange or T-Mobile services that they could take their problem to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) organisation if the original complaint was not satisfactorily dealt with within eight weeks.
ADR is a right for all customers and is important for their protection. It gives customers the possibility of having a complaint assessed by a third-party and independent body for an impartial judgement.
Complaints can also be taken to ADR if neither party agrees on the issues - called "deadlock".
It is a free service but between 22 July 2011 and 8 April 2014, Ofcom found that EE failed to provide its customers with "adequate information about their right to take their complaint to an ADR scheme".
The regulator claims that EE did not send written notifications to customers referencing their right to take their complaint to ADR. Nor did the network provider start in its customer complaints code that customers could access the ADR scheme by requesting a deadlock letter.
Some customers who also asked for a deadlock letter from EE during this time were not sent them as requires. And some of them were told by EE that deadlock letters were not issued by the provider.
On its part, EE has since amended its customer complaints code accordingly and the information provided on its paper bills and written notifications. It sent Pocket-lint a statement explaining that it started to change some practices before the Ofcom investigation was enacted.
"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 its investigation. We have made considerable improvements since then," we were told by an EE spokesperson.
"Ofcom’s current figures highlight that complaints into Ofcom about EE have fallen by 50 per cent 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."