EE is the latest telco to be fined millions for billing errors, but it won’t be the last

Written by on January 18, 2017 in Billing & Payments, Opinion with 0 Comments

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Billing is still causing major problems for operators and their customers. The latest to fail is UK company EE, which has been handed out a £2.7 million fine by regulator Ofcom. The fine is over ten times the amount that EE overcharged their customers.

Many billing professionals will look at this story and raise their eyebrows at this schoolboy error. Some 32,000 customers were charged US roaming rates while they were actually travelling in Europe. This probably wasn’t what their customers were expecting from their bill when they thought they were on EE’s ‘roam like home’ plan.

What is surprising is that EE initially said it couldn’t identify the customers that were affected. Ofcom said that they could. EE then identified most of them and gave the rest of the money to charity.

The company has apologised for the ‘technical billing fault’. Not human error then, giving customers the wrong rate plan? Computers, at least for now, tend to do what their human masters tell them to do.

There are some in the industry who believe that 2017 will be the year when our BSS woes disappear, and the year when we ditch the handle ‘operator’ and ‘telco’ – but we tend to disagree. We would like to agree, obviously, but with huge billing transformations still crashing and burning it is hard to see how.

We heard of one such transformation project in the second half of last year that was junked when the cost had run to about $800 million. Oddly very few people had also heard about it, or if they had they weren’t saying.

EE’s billing blunder is not the first major blunder to hit the headlines, nor will it be the last. Last year Vodafone was fined an eye watering £4.6 million for not crediting prepaid accounts properly and mishandling the complaints.

It will not come as a great surprise that the problem was caused as “a consequence of errors during a complex IT migration which involved moving more than 28.5 million customer accounts” which started at the end of 2013 “and was the largest of its kind ever undertaken by Vodafone anywhere in the world”.

The end of billing problems? The year when BSS finally delivers on its promise?

Not a chance if you are still bogged down with those big transformations.

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Alex Leslie

About the Author

About the Author:

Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews.

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