Why EE and Virgin Media's regulator-imposed fines matter

The UK's telecoms regulator, Ofcom, has fined EE and Virgin Media a combined £13.3m for overcharging customers. The regulator says that EE over-billed 400,000 customers who ended their contracts early. Virgin Media are accused of overcharging 82,000 customers, although the company has told the BBC that it will appeal Ofcom’s decision.

Ofcom's investigation

Ofcom launched its investigation after noticing a number of complaints about EE and Virgin Media overcharging. Their findings suggested Virgin Media’s early-exit charges were higher than customers had agreed when signing their residential contracts. Virgin Media says that the charges were a mistake affecting just 1.5% of its 5.5 million cable customers. In the case of EE, Ofcom say that customers were not properly informed of the exit charges for leaving contracts early – a practice that continued for six years.

Early exit fees

As well as fining the two companies, Ofcom has also criticised the telecoms industry's practice of charging fees for early termination of contracts. The regulator says this prevents consumers from switching providers and accessing the best deals.

This view is backed by a Which? survey that found most customers have been with their broadband provider at least three years. Since most introductory deals end after 12-24 months, these loyal customers end up overpaying by 15% on average, some by as much as 89%. This shows how important it is to check and compare your bills regularly, and to switch providers if you’re not getting a good deal.

How to handle unfair charges

In the case of EE and Virgin Media, Ofcom’s ruling means affected customers may contact their provider for a refund. But if you’re with another provider and believe you’ve been charged incorrectly, there are still ways to resolve the matter.

Your first move should be to contact your service provider raising your concerns. Make sure to keep a record of your correspondence and be reasonable in your discussion, as these letters or emails may be used to back up your claim. If the problem isn’t resolved within eight weeks, you can complain to Ofcom and seek help from an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme. The relevant details can be found on Ofcom’s website.

Whatever the service, contacting companies with questions and concerns is always sensible. If you’ve received an enforcement notice from Dukes, please contact our team today to discuss the matter.