The telecoms operator Vodafone has been fined £4.6million by Ofcom for its serious and sustained breaches of consumer protection rules.
Key complaints from Vodafone customers centred around poorly managed customer complaints as well as misleading sales of top-up credit to pay-as-you-go customers where customers paid but received no credit in return.
Over a 17 month period 10,452 Vodafone customers had been found to have collectively lost £150,000 after Vodafone failed to credit their accounts.
Vodafone has been found to be breaking rules on handling customer complaints as well as misleading pay-as-you-go customers charging customers for top-up credit without providing credit in return.
The fine follows two investigations by Ofcom into Vodafone who have 20 million customers in the UK.
Vodafone has now apologised for its failings and claims the problems were caused by the companies move to a new billing system.
During Ofcom's initial investigation Vodafone was found responded too slowly to these complaints as well as failing to fix the issues until Ofcom intervened.
A further investigation found Vodafone to be failing to respond appropriately to customer complaints with staff not given sufficient guidance on what constitutes a complaint, not handling complaints in a fair and timely manner and not informing customers, in writing, of their rights to involve a third party when a complaint is unresolved for 8 weeks.
Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom Consumer Group director, said, "Vodafone's failings were serious and unacceptable, and these fines send a clear warning to all telecoms companies. Phone services are a vital part of people's lives, and we expect all customers to be treated fairly and in good faith."