EE subscribers threaten to quit over call centre priority service

EE faces a customer backlash after introducing a service that lets subscribers pay to skip to the front of the queue when calling customer service centres.

The UK operator--a joint venture between Orange and Deutsche Telekom--is offering to prioritise calls from subscribers who pay a £0.50 (€0.62/$0.83) flat fee during business hours, in a move a spokesperson said would boost investment in its customer care.

In a statement emailed to FierceWireless:Europe, the spokesperson said EE is introducing "some small charges for certain customer services."

The spokesperson added that EE is "investing significantly in our retail stores, contact centres, and account management websites and apps," and has opened two new UK call centres as part of a commitment to return "over 1,000 roles to the UK from overseas call centres."

Long-standing customers reacted badly to the move, which is being offered to all EE subscribers except its pay-as-you-go users.

Subscribers vented their fury on Twitter, with several branding the move "disgusting" and stating they would switch to a rival operator when their EE contract expires, according to reports by the BBC and the Independent.

Adding fuel to the fire are comments by an EE spokesperson that suggest the priority service means calls from customers that don't pay the charge will take longer to be answered, PC Pro reported citing an article in the Mirror newspaper.

UK regulator Ofcom revealed this week that EE ranked in first place in terms of call completion success rates in the second half of 2013 with a 97 per cent success rate. Research conducted for the regulator by mobile analytics company RootMetrics placed O2 UK in second place on a 95.3 per cent success rate, followed by 3 UK (94.5 per cent) and Vodafone UK (92.6 per cent).

However, previous research by the regulator revealed EE received the most complaints for broadband services with 0.42 complaints per 1,000 customers. The majority of complaints centred on service faults, billing, and problems changing provider, Ofcom said.

Rival broadband providers BT and TalkTalk received 0.33 and 0.24 complaints per 1,000 customers respectively.

For more:
- view EE's customer service information
- see Ofcom's call completion report [PDF]
- read the regulator's broadband complaints release
- see this BBC report
- view the Independent's article
- read PC Pro's report

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