Own-initiative investigation into EE Limited (trading as EE, Orange and T-Mobile) concerning compliance with paragraph 14.4 of General Condition 14 – Code of Practice and Dispute Resolution

CW/01120/01/14

Complainant: Ofcom own-initiative investigation following assessment of evidence submitted under Ofcom’s Own-initiative Monitoring and Enforcement Programme: General Condition 14 regarding Complaints Handling (CW/01101/02/13) (‘GC14 Monitoring and Enforcement Programme)
Investigation against: EE Limited (trading as 4GEE, Orange and T-Mobile)
Case Opened: 27 February 2014
Case closed: 2 July 2015
Issue: Whether EE Limited (“EE”) complied with its obligations under General Condition 14.4 of the General Conditions of Entitlement.
Relevant Instrument: General Condition (“GC14.4”) concerning Complaints Handling

Update note: 7 August 2015

A non-confidential version of the Confirmation Decision issued to EE Limited (trading as 4GEE, Orange and T-Mobile), on 2 July 2015, has now been prepared and can be found under the related items.

End of update note

Update note:  2 July 2015

Following an investigation into EE (trading as 4GEE, Orange and T-Mobile), Ofcom issued it with a notification under s96A of the Communications Act 2003 (the “Act”) on 26 March 2015, as we had reasonable grounds to believe that EE had contravened GC14.4 by failing to have, and comply with, procedures that conform to the Ofcom Approved Code of Practice for Complaints Handling (the “Ofcom Code” which is Annex 4 to GC14) when handling complaints made by domestic and small business customers about its Public Electronic Communications Services.

EE provided written representations to Ofcom on 28 April 2015, and made oral representations to Ofcom on 15 May 2015, in relation to the matters set out in the s96A notification. Having considered those representations – together with the other evidence collected from EE and its Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Scheme, CISAS – Ofcom is satisfied that, between 22 July 2011 and 8 April 2014 (the Relevant Period), EE contravened GC14.4, in the following ways, and at the following times:

a) Not sending customers Written Notification of their right to go to ADR eight weeks after the complaint is first brought to the attention of the CP in a number of complaint cases that subsequently went to CISAS between May 2012 and April 2014, as required by paragraph 4(d) of the Ofcom Code. This contravention covered the entire Relevant Period (a period of nearly 33 months) but was particularly prevalent in 2012 and 2013.(-1-)

b) Not sending Deadlock Letters on request to customers in a number of complaint cases that subsequently went to CISAS between May 2012 and April 2014, as required by paragraph 4(c) of the Ofcom Code. In certain cases EE refused to issue a Deadlock Letter to a customer by stating that it did not issue these types of letters. This contravention covered the entire Relevant Period (a period of nearly 33 months) but was particularly prevalent in 2013.

c) Sending paper bills to customers that did not make reference to the fact that Orange customers can utilise the ADR scheme at no cost to themselves, as required by paragraph 4(b) of the Ofcom Code. This continued from 22 July 2011 to 28 February 2014 (a period of approximately 31 months).

d) Sending Written Notifications to customers that did not make reference to the fact that 4GEE, Orange and T-Mobile customers can utilise the ADR scheme at no cost to themselves, as required by paragraph (e) of the definition of Written Notification set out in the Ofcom Code. This continued from 22 July 2011 to 9 February 2014 (a period of nearly 31 months).

e) Not referencing in its Customer Complaints Code that complainants are also able to access EE’s ADR scheme by requesting a written Deadlock Letter where both parties (the CP and the complainant) have agreed to deadlock, as required by paragraph 1(c)(v), and 4(c), of the Ofcom Code. This contravention continued throughout the Relevant Period and ceased on 1 April 2015.

Therefore on 2 July 2015, Ofcom issued EE with a Confirmation Decision under section 96C of the Act.
Ofcom is satisfied that EE has taken sufficient steps to come into compliance with paragraph 1(c)(v) of the Ofcom Code by amending its Customer Complaints Code to include reference to the Deadlock Letter requirement of paragraph 4(c) of the Ofcom Code, and that this particular contravention is therefore not ongoing.

We have decided not to specify any particular steps that EE should take in order to remedy the consequences of the other instances we have identified over the Relevant Period in which EE failed to have and comply with procedures that conformed to the Ofcom Code (which cumulatively amount to a single contravention of GC 14.4). EE is, nonetheless, free to take any further steps it considers relevant.

The Confirmation Decision also imposes a financial penalty of £1,000,000 on EE in respect of its contravention of GC14 during the Relevant Period.

A non-confidential version of the Confirmation Decision is currently being prepared and will be published shortly.

End of update note

Update note: 27 March 2015

Following an investigation, Ofcom has determined that there are reasonable grounds for believing that EE, trading as 4GEE, Orange and T-Mobile, has contravened GC14.4 of the General Conditions. Ofcom has therefore issued a Notification to EE under section 96A of the Communications Act 2003.

Specifically, Ofcom has reasonable grounds for believing that over the period from 22 July 2011 to 8 April 2014 EE contravened GC14.4 by failing to have and comply with procedures that conform to the Ofcom Approved Code of Practice for Complaints Handling (the ‘Ofcom Code’ which is Annex 4 to GC14) when handling complaints made by domestic and small business customers about its Public Electronic Communications Services. EE now has an opportunity to make representations to Ofcom on the matters contained in the Notification.

End of update note

Text published when case was opened

Ofcom has opened this investigation following an assessment of the evidence submitted by EE in response to an information request issued to it under Ofcom’s GC14 Monitoring and Enforcement Programme and subsequent correspondence.

Under General Condition 14.4 Communications Providers (CPs) must have and comply with procedures that conform to the Ofcom Approved Code of Practice for Complaints Handling (the ‘Ofcom Code’ which is Annex 4 to GC14) when handling complaints made by domestic and small business customers about its Public Electronic Communications Services.

Ofcom’s investigation will examine whether there are reasonable grounds for believing that EE has failed to comply with this obligation.

Case Leader: Katerina Vlachavas (email: katerina.vlachavas@ofcom.org.uk)
Case Reference: CW/01120/01/14

1.- CISAS may accept complaints up to 12 months after the customer first complained to the provider, or even after 12 months in exceptional circumstances. These cases therefore contain initial complaints made by customers to EE throughout the Relevant Period.