Mobile telephone operator Three has been fined £250,000 for mishandling customer complaints.
Communications watchdog Ofcom announced the fine after an investigation revealed that the company had not handled complaints in a “fair and timely manner,” and in some cases had not even logged calls from customers raising issues as complaints.
The company was also criticised for not informing customers of their right to escalate complaints to an independent body through the alternative disputes resolution (ADR) process. ADR is a free of charge service that allows issues between service providers and consumers to be resolved by an independent body. It is a legal requirement on companies to mention this option on paper bills sent to customers, something Ofcom said Three had failed to do.
However, Ofcom noted that the efforts of Three’s frontline customer service staff had “mitigated” the harm done to consumers and that the company had taken steps to ensure it was now “compliant with it’s complaint handling obligations.”
Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s consumer and content group director, said: “When things go wrong, customers are not only entitled to complain to their provider, but must have confidence that their complaint will be dealt with fairly. That’s why we impose strict rules on providers on how they must handle complaints.”
“The fine imposed on Three takes account of the shortcomings in its complaints handling, but reflects that the harm to consumers in this case was limited.”
Nicholas Carter, Three’s lead corporate and financial communications manager told The Drum: “Ofcom’s own figures, collected over the past three years, reflect a huge shift.
"We have become the least complained about mobile operator in the UK in 2014. 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.”
Three has recently been involved in rolling out free Wi-Fi on the London Underground in partnership with Virgin Media.