Mobile phone operator EE has been slapped with a £2.7m fine after the telecoms watchdog found it had overcharged almost 40,000 customers.
Ofcom said an investigation into the provider had shown consumers were overcharged to the tune of around £250,000.
The regulator said EE, which was bought by BT last year, had admitted to incorrectly charging customers who called the company’s ‘150’ customer services number while roaming within the EU as if they had called the United States.
This mistake saw customers charged £1.20 per minute, instead of 19p per minute. As a result, Ofcom said, at least 32,145 customers were overcharged around £245,700 in total.
“EE didn’t take enough care to ensure that its customers were billed accurately. This ended up costing customers thousands of pounds, which is completely unacceptable," said Ofcom's consumer group director, Lindsey Fussell.
“We monitor how phone companies bill their customers, and will not tolerate careless mistakes. Any company that breaks Ofcom’s rules should expect similar consequences.”
An EE spokesperson said: "We accept these findings and apologise unreservedly to those customers affected by these technical billing issues between 2014 & 2015. We have put measures in place to prevent this from happening again, and have contacted the majority of customers to apologise and provide a full refund.
"Following Ofcom’s findings, we have made a number of additional improvements to our systems and policies to allow us to better support our customers in the rare occasion that billing issues do occur."
EE, which was crowned the UK's best mobile operator for the last three years in a row, must pay the £2.7m penalty to Ofcom within 20 working days. The money will then be passed on to HM Treasury.
Ofcom said the fine incorporates a 10 per cent reduction to reflect EE’s agreement to enter into a formal settlement, which will save public money and resources.
While the regulator said it "recognises that the majority of customers have now been refunded", EE was unable to identify at least 6,905 customers, who were more than £60,000 out of pocket in total. The company made a £62,000 donation to charity in lieu of the payments owed to those customers.
However, Ofcom said that in addition to the fine announced today, it is requiring EE to make further attempts to trace and refund every customer who was overcharged.