Investigation into BT’s provision of contract information and a contract summary

22 May 2024

Closed

Investigation into British Telecommunications Plc (BT)
Case opened 23 January 2023
Case closed 22 May 2024
Summary

This investigation examined the compliance of British Telecommunications Plc (BT) with its obligation to provide customers with contract information and a contract summary before they enter a contract as a result of suspected breaches by its subsidiaries EE Limited (EE) and Plusnet Plc (Plusnet).

Relevant legal provision(s)

General Conditions C1.3 to C1.7 and C5.16.

Following our investigation, Ofcom has today issued a Confirmation Decision to British Telecommunications Plc (‘BT’) under s96C of the Communication Act 2003, that BT has contravened General Conditions C1.3 to C1.7 by failing to give some EE and Plusnet customers the required contract information and contract summary documents.

Since 17 June 2022, communications providers, including BT, have been required to give consumers and micro and small enterprise or not-for-profit customers specified contract information and contract summary documents before they enter into a contract. Both documents contain important information about the communications service on offer, helping customers to make well-informed purchasing decisions by ensuring they have access to clear, comparable information before they make a purchase and to refer to during their contract.

In 2022, BT admitted that it had failed to provide the required documents to customers purchasing services through some of its EE and Plusnet sales channels. Our investigation has revealed that BT failed to give this information to some customers purchasing services through its EE digital website/app and retail stores, Plusnet website and contact centre and other consumer and business sales channels. The contraventions began on 17 June 2022, when the new rules came into force, and in most instances lasted up to five months, although in respect of certain sales the breaches are ongoing. As a result, BT has made over 1.3 million sales without giving customers the required information.

In light of the seriousness of BT’s breaches, we are imposing a financial penalty of £2.8 million on BT. This penalty was set having regard to our Penalty Guidelines and includes a 30% discount as a result of BT’s admission of liability and its completion of Ofcom’s settlement process. The penalty reflects several factors, including our finding that BT knew that some EE and Plusnet sales channels would not be compliant when the rules came into force and chose to take the risk of late implementation. It also takes into account the action BT has taken to date to remedy the consequences of the breaches.

We require BT to take further action to bring itself into compliance and remedy the consequences of the contraventions. BT must ensure that non-compliant sales channels are bought into compliance, in most cases within three months of this decision. We are also requiring BT, within five months of this decision, to take all reasonable steps to refund customers who did not receive the contract summary and contract information and were then charged for leaving their contract before the end of their contract period.

A non-confidential version of the Confirmation Decision will be published shortly.

As part of this investigation, we also considered BT’s compliance with GC C5.16, which states that providers must make the contract information and contract summary documents available in an accessible format (such as in braille) to any customer who needs it because of their disability. We have not seen evidence that BT has contravened GC C5.16. Therefore, we are not making a finding in relation to that Condition.


Contact

Enforcement team (enforcement@ofcom.org.uk)

Case reference CW/01265/11/22