The UK regulator Ofcom has fined mobile operator Three £250,000 (€317,000) for failing to comply with its policy on handling customer complaints.

An investigation by Ofcom found that some complaints were not dealt with in “a fair and timely manner” by Three, and that the operator prematurely closed some complaints before they were resolved.

Ofcom also discovered that Three did not log a number of calls from customers as complaints when it should have, meaning customers were not treated in line with the operator’s formal complaints policy.

As a result, Three failed to make complainants “sufficiently aware” that they could escalate their complaints to alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

ADR allows customers to refer formal complaints against operators to an independent body for impartial judgement. Ofcom found that Three had failed to include this on paper bills sent to customers, which is a requirement of all network providers.

Although Three has now taken steps to ensure customer complaint handling complies with Ofcom’s Code of Practice, the regulator decided to impose a financial penalty on the operator.

Commenting on the decision, Three said in a statement: “Ofcom identified issues with our complaints handling process back in Spring 2013.  Since then we have worked closely and openly with Ofcom to address these as part of the broader effort to improve complaint resolution, contacting all the customers that might have been impacted. Delivering a great customer experience remains an absolute focus across the business.”

Three also pointed to Ofcom figures revealing it as the least complained about UK operator in 2014.

Ofcom confirmed that any harm to Three customers had been mitigated thanks to the efforts of the operator’s frontline customer service staff.

Claudio Pollack, Consumer and Content Group Director at Ofcom, said: "The fine imposed on Three takes account of the shortcomings in its complaints handling, but reflects that the harm to consumers in this case was limited. The company fully co-operated with our investigation and has now taken steps to ensure it's compliant with the rules on complaints handling."

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