Ofcom fines EE and Virgin Media £13m for overcharging customers

Donna Miller
November 16, 2018

United Kingdom telecoms watchdog Ofcom has fined EE and Virgin Media a combined £13.3m for overcharging some phone and broadband customers who ended contracts early.

The investigation found that around 400,000 EE customers with recurring monthly discounts were overcharged for ending their contracts early, which saw customers over-paying up to £4.3m.

EE, Britain's biggest mobile operator, was fined £6.3m and Liberty Global-owned Virgin Media was fined £7m.

Ofcom said that about 400,000 customers of BT Group's BT were wrongly charged exit penalties totalling up to £4.3m, while about 82,000 Virgin Media customers were overcharged to the tune of £2.8m. Ofcom fined the company £7 million plus an additional £25,000 for giving incomplete information in response to a statutory information request.

Gaucho Rasmussen, Ofcom's director of investigations and enforcement, said: 'EE and Virgin Media broke our rules by overcharging people who ended their contracts early. This decision and fine is not justified, proportionate or reasonable.

Ofcom found that Virgin Media had levied early-exit charges that were higher than customers had agreed to when signing up to their residential contracts.

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It said 1.5% of its 5.5 million cable customers were affected.

It discovered that up to 15 million discount contracts for EE's mobile, landline and broadband customers required them to pay excessive early exit charges, of which 400,000 chose to leave and were over-billed.

Phone and broadband companies can charge customers who choose not to see out the minimum term of their contracts - but under Ofcom rules, those charges must be made clear to customers and must not make switching to another provider too costly.

A spokesperson for EE said: "We've already refunded customers and changed the way we calculate early termination charges, and we will continue to focus on ensuring our policies are clear and fair for all customers".

Ofcom found that Virgin Media had levied early-exit charges that were higher than customers had agreed to when signing up to their residential contracts for nearly a year.

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