Ofcom has fined BT £245,000 (US$316,000) after an investigation found that the company overcharged EE’s mobile customers for making calls to 118 directory enquiries services.
Although use of directory enquiries has declined in recent years, many people still rely on them as an important means of obtaining the number they need. Older people and those without internet access are more likely to make 118 calls.
To protect vulnerable people and ensure fairer prices, we introduced a price cap on 118 phone numbers in April 2019. Our investigation found that BT did not implement this immediately for EE customers.
As a result, over a three-month period, between April and June last year, almost 6,000 EE customers were overcharged by around £42,000 for making calls to 118 numbers. However, BT was able to correct most bills before EE customers paid them. This meant that around £10,000 of the total amount overcharged was paid by EE customers. All customers have since been refunded.
BT’s failure to implement the 118 price cap was a serious breach of our rules, particularly taking into account the potentially vulnerable people that use directory enquiry services. So we have imposed a penalty of £245,000 on BT.
The penalty includes a 30% discount in recognition that BT admitted its failings by agreeing to settle the case.
The money raised from the fine, which must be paid to Ofcom within 20 working days, will be passed on to HM Treasury.