Three UK fined £250,000 for customer complaints cockup

Ofcom punishes mobe operator for giving up on whingers

Three UK has been fined £250,000 by Ofcom after the mobe carrier was caught giving up on moaning customers' complaints without resolving their problems with the service.

The communications watchdog said that Three UK failed to handle some subscriber gripes in a "fair and timely manner".

Ofcom added that, during the regulator's investigation of the company, Three UK had wrongly closed unresolved complaints on its system – while some calls passing through the operator's customer service team had not been officially logged.

The probe formed part of the watchdog's monitoring and enforcement programme to crack down on providers that respond sluggishly and unfairly to complaints.

Telcos that fail to inform subscribers about the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service are also admonished by Ofcom.

In Three UK's case, the regulator said the firm failed to sufficiently make its customers aware of their consumer protection rights:

Access to ADR is free of charge to customers. Paper bills sent to Three UK customers, however, failed to mention this – a requirement on all communications providers.

During the course of the investigation, Three UK fully cooperated with Ofcom and has taken steps to ensure it is now compliant with its complaints handling obligations. Three also took steps to remedy its breaches where it could.

Ofcom also noted that, although the investigation identified certain shortcomings in Three’s complaints handling processes, the harm to consumers was mitigated due to the efforts of frontline customer service staff.

Ofcom said it was satisfied that Three UK now complied fully with its complaints handling obligations. The watchdog's consumer director Claudio Pollack added:

"The [£250,000] fine imposed on Three UK takes account of the shortcomings in its complaints handling, but reflects that the harm to consumers in this case was limited."

Three UK said in a canned statement to The Register:

Ofcom identified issues with our complaints handling process back in Spring 2013.

Since then we have worked closely and openly with Ofcom to address these as part of the broader effort to improve complaint resolution, contacting all the customers that might have been impacted.

Delivering a great customer experience remains an absolute focus across the business.

In February, Ofcom said it was probing EE, after it had gathered evidence about the mobile operator under its monitoring and enforcement programme. The regulator is currently mulling whether EE had complied fully with its customer complaints-handling obligations. ®

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