BT fined £2.8m over contract failures for 1.1m EE and Plusnet customers

BT has been fined £2.8 million by the industry watchdog after EE and Plusnet failed to provide clear and simple contract information to more than a million customers before they signed up.

Ofcom said that since June 2022, BT’s EE and Plusnet businesses made more than 1.3 million sales without providing customers with a contract summary and information documents, which affected at least 1.1 million customers.

This meant that BT broke the regulator’s consumer protection rules, which came into effect in 2022 and are designed to ensure customers get clear, comparable information about the services they are considering buying.

Ofcom said the fine “reflects the seriousness of this breach”.

Ofcom brought in the rules in June 2022 and said BT had assured it that the group was confident the deadline would be met.

But the watchdog said its investigation found that, from January 2022, BT was aware that some of its sales would not meet the deadline.

Ofcom said: “In some cases, BT deliberately chose not to comply with the rules on time.

“Other providers dedicated the resource required to meet the implementation deadline for these new rules, and BT is likely to have saved costs by not doing so.”

It said BT got in contact with affected customers last summer and offered them the chance to request information or cancel their contract without charge.

But it added that some customers had already left BT before the end of their contract and may have been wrongly charged a so-called exit fee.

Ofcom said: “Our rules are clear that if the required contract summary and contract information is not given, the contract is not binding on customers.

“As a result, an early exit fee should not have been payable by these customers.”

As well as the £2.8 million fine, BT must also find and reimburse any affected customers who were charged exit fees, contact remaining customers who are still with BT and offer them the right to cancel without charge, and amend all its sales processes to ensure they meet the rules.

Ian Strawhorne, Ofcom enforcement director, said: “For people to take advantage of the competitive telecoms market here in the UK, they must be able to shop around with confidence.

“When we strengthened our rules to make it easier for consumers to compare deals, we gave providers a strict timeline by which to implement them.

“It’s unacceptable that BT couldn’t get its act together in time, and the company must now pay a penalty for its failings.”

A BT spokesman said: “We’re sorry that some of our pre-contract information and contract summary documents were not available to some of our customers in a timely manner.

“We apologise for any inconvenience caused and have taken steps to proactively contact affected customers and arrange for them to receive the information and be refunded where applicable.”