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That Suspiciously High EE Bill Was An Accident

Mobile phone network EE are not having the best couple of months, firstly with a reveal of a price hike at the end of last year (meaning an extra £1.50 on line rental for all customers) sparking outrage. On top of this around a week ago they were having some serious 4G connection issues, leaving thousands of customers without a way to make or receive calls. Today EE are left with a very big hole in their pocket and a knock to their customer appeal as Ofcom officials confirm that the mobile experts have been fined a staggering £2.7 million for overcharging their customers. If this wasn't bad enough, the communication regulators also revealed that EE broke a 'fundamental billing rule' on two separate occasions, which means that 40K+ of their customers were overcharged (giving the seemingly greedy company an extra £250,000). 

EE mobile network

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

This overcharging was apparently a result of customers using roaming within the EU, anyone using the roaming were charged as is they were calling the United States rather than Europe. These customers were charged 10 times the amount they should have been per minute; £1.20 per minute instead of 19p. The company may not have intentionally set out to make more money from these customers, but Ofcom were not impressed with the lack of care taken to avoid such an incident. In November EE actually announced they would no longer charge any of their customers for calls or texts within the EU, however they were found by Ofcom to have been charging many customers until the first week of January. In lieu of their mistake EE have actually donated £62,000 to charity, but this does not negate their negligence. 

The £2.7m fine must be paid by the company within 20 working days and although EE have managed to refund a good portion of their customers, they are unable to account for almost 7,000 customers (which means £60,000 is not accounted for). EE may not be breaking records with their fine, as Vodaphone holds that record at £4.6 million, but it's still cause for concern for the company. EE is owned by BT, who also own internet provider Plusnet; all three of these companies were the most complained about in 2016. They top the tables for internet service and telephone service complaints in the UK, so why do we continue to use their services? There is one big reason and it's to do with air space...

BT tower

Image credit: Matt Brown via Flickr

You see, BT/EE dominate the market they are in and they own around 40% of the air space used (such as masts etc used to give us the best coverage), meaning that there is little left for other mobile companies to use. Mobile network Three have brought this up as recently some air space (previously used by the army) went up for auction, however they are concerned that BT will continue to increase their share and monopolize the market. Three claim that BT buy the space and don't even use it, just so they can stop other networks from giving better coverage. This means they can charge their customers more as they give the most coverage and in turn a 'better' service.

The "Make The Air Fair" campaign started by Three asks for everyone to sign a consultation which would put a rule in place that only allows any provider to only own up to 30% of the market share (giving others the opportunity to increase their coverage and give consumers more choice). Currently BT own the lion's share at 40%, followed by Vodaphone at 29%; Two of the lowest shares belong to O2 at 15% and Three at 14%. The consultation has over 100,000 supporters already and many consumers have also sent letters to their local MP's about the situation. Sharon White, CEO of Ofcom, is the one who's been informed (and sent many many letters) and there are hopes that this will be a point of discussion in parliament at some point in the near future. In the meantime BT will remain market leaders, despite poor customer service and increased prices for consumers. 

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