/ Money, Shopping, Technology

Would you pay 50p to skip the call waiting queue?

50 pence

The mobile phone provider EE has introduced a 50p fee to jump the queue on its customer service helpline. Is that a price worth paying or a kick in the teeth?

Do you ever get fed up with hanging on the line waiting to talk to your energy provider, mobile company or bank? What if you could pay a small fee to skip the queue? That’s what EE has up its sleeve.

You’ll be invited by an automated message to pay a flat fee of 50p when you call up EE (ooh that rhymed!) to use its ‘priority service’. Pay monthly and sim-only customers have been presented with this ‘opportunity’ for the past week. An EE customer here at Which? HQ has phoned EE’s customer service number to confirm that this option is indeed being presented.

EE’s customer service fee

It looks like some of EE’s customers aren’t happy about it. Andrew Griffiths told BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours:

‘I thought it was a bad idea for a company to offer to provide what really ought to be a standard level of customer service for a fee.

‘It makes you think that perhaps they might not be trying too hard to answer the non-prioritised calls.’

We reached out to EE for comment. A spokesperson told us:

‘Our aim is to set a new standard for customer service in the telecoms sector, developing our support to meet customers’ increasing expectations and needs. As part of this two new UK call centres opened already this year, part of our plan to return over 1,000 customer service roles to the UK from overseas.

‘We’re also introducing some charges for customer services. This includes a standard charge per call of 25p on new SIM Only plans for customer service, as well as an option for all customers to jump queues at busy times, for a small fee.’

What do you think about paying to skip the call waiting queue? Is it any different to paying for queue jumping at the airport?

Would you pay a 50p fee to skip the customer service call waiting queue?

No (88%, 1,608 Votes)

Yes (12%, 215 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,823

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It’s absolutely diabolical, it really is. When I read this on Twitter a few hours ago i thought it was a joke. EE already are the most expensive phone company and let’s not even talk about how they brought in mid-contract price rises a few months ago……and now they do this.

Yes EE are bringing call centers back to the UK, well done, but then they ask people to pay 50p to jump the system. Are they crazy?

I’m already a massive fan of using social media to get companies to call YOU. Maybe this is the way of companies getting there own back?

I can only hope this doesn’t last long. If I was with EE I would be so angry, it’s sounds like if you pay an extra 50p *per call* you get to speak to someone right, but what happens if loads of people are paying this 50p? Would the normal caller wait longer and longer just to speak to someone?

Come on EE, scrap it. Awful idea.

I’m happy with this if EE mention their second rate service in all their promotional material.

EE have a bit more to do before they gain the reputation of Ryanair, but they seem to be working on it.

Oscar says:
14 August 2014

Except Ryanair are cheap and EE are horribly overpriced.

Actually Ryanair aren’t that cheap when you add up all the extras which are all but impossible to avoid… Give me British Airways anytime!

And of course the free service queue gets longer and longer so soon everyone has to pay.

If I was EE I’d then introduce a £1 fee so you could jump ahead of the 50p queue. If you enter a queue for anything it should be a level playing field – whether at the airport, on a help line or whatever. If you want to introduce a “premier” service that you pay for annually, say, then fair enough (like having a gold card from your airline that gets you into their lounges and priority check in). But the more customers you have, the more help will be required, and the more staff you will need to deal with them – but then those extra customers are giving you extra revenue to fund it. Face up to providing a proper service for your customers EE (I won’t be one).

john says:
14 August 2014

if they had a good customer service to start with they wouldn’t need to offer this service. as with the yearly price increase i have voted with my feet & am leaving, to join the only firm to sign up to fixed means fixed meaning as long as i dont go over my agreed bundle then i will pay the same fee for £24 months

This is an absolute disgrace… This is a way round using premium rates numbers.
ALL customer services should be free and the same level of service afforded to everyone.
This has made my blood boil and I certainly won’t consider moving my custom to EE whilst such shoddy behaviour prevails. Grrrrr!

We’ve just left ee mobile & broadband after many years. Their customer service is already worse than apalling down to the huge wait for the disconnection department after you sayyou want to cancel whch cost £12. We’ve spent hours and blood pressure on the phone but now we are free and good riddance. Ee seem to have a policy of actively seeking to lose customers Which is just about all they are really good at. I wouldn’t wish them on my worst enemy!

EE have also introduced a fixed charge of 25p for customer service calls for those on SIM only plans. See this page on EE’s Customer Service Call Charges: http://ee.co.uk/help/accounts-billing-and-topping-up/billing-and-payment/help-desk-calls–new-charges

Come on Which? – get in contact with Ofcom and get this stopped. It could be a quick win for Which?

This has nothing to do with Ofcom. This is not their role.

Thanks for pointing this out, Ian.

If it is the role of Ofcom to police the use of costly calls then perhaps the remit of the regulator should be extended to include issues such as companies making a surcharge to queue jump and to handle complaints about any organisation that regularly keeps callers on hold for excessive periods, whether the call is chargeable or not.

This is likely a question for BIS not Ofcom.

Whoever is responsible, the call surcharges need to be nipped in the bud before other companies start playing the same game.

The 25p non-optional charge breaches Regulation 41 of the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Payments) Regulations 2013, particularly as 25p is more than the basic rate for those with inclusive minutes. Regulators should take swift action against EE for this unlawful practice.

It’s a little known secret that you can get through to customer services for any EE brand by dialling 01707 315000.

Top marks NFH.

Nice to have the membership doing the work. If indeed you are a member rather than a gifted passing browser!

The Regulation 41 mentioned by NFH relates only to an existing contract and does not seem to cover aspects of customer services.

Customer services are for when one speaks to a company about a contract for goods or services entered into by the consumer with the company. Regulation 41 absolutely does cover customer services. The only exception is sales lines, i.e. for new business, where a contract has not yet been concluded. Sales lines are excluded. However, very few businesses are stupid enough to charge prospective customers for speaking to them.

I appreciate this, but in practice it can be quite complex to contact a company, especially if you don’t have a computer in front of you. In practice, many people ring the customer services number and explain what they are calling about. Business has to cope with people who are not ruthlessly efficient if they want our business.

Tracy says:
15 August 2014

Took, without a lie, 6 days to activate a PAYG Sim card with multiple calls to the diabolical Customer Services who have the ‘habit’ of cutting you off ‘when they don’t know the answer’ – all of which cost 25p standard charge to talk to them so if you pay the 50p to queue jump and they put the phone down on you – to me that is just a ‘fundraiser’ for EE. Just thinking outside the box…… Which – you seriously need to look into EE/Orange – they have some very unscrupulous practices (I have the evidence of what they did to me – if you want it…..)

Anyone else think this is a direct response to being made to drop expensive 084 tech helpline numbers.

Maybe, but EE haven’t dropped their 0844 numbers. They still use them.

There are no 03 numbers.

You are right. Maybe they don’t know that companies are no longer allowed to use costly numbers for calls that relate to customer services.

There is a warning on their website: “The legal stuff: do remember to check with your phone provider for costs before calling us”

Sorry EE. It’s not good enough.

As Lee said, this is an absolutely diabolical move. It needs nipping in the bud now before other stupid companies think it’s a good idea.

If companies spent more time on making their operations require less support, they wouldn’t have such a support burden that they have to think up inflammatory bird-brained ideas to finance them in the first place.

EE deserve all the bad publicity over this that I hope they’ll get. I’m glad I’m not one of their customers.

Anthony says:
15 August 2014

A lot of calls could be avoided if they are more honest/forthcoming with news about technical problems and use their website & social media platforms for this purpose.

As many calls are a result of EE problems rather than with the customer, why should they get charged?

In addition to losing existing customers, they will lose prospective customers. I’m moving away from Vodafone, purely due to poor coverage. EE and 3 were on my evaluation list (based on Rootmetrics data for signal coverage) so I have got temporary PAYG SIMS on both. Technical problems at EE along with looking at how many disgruntled people there are tweeting them/facebooking them compared to 3 is swinging the balance. The 50p charge adds to this.

EE… a step-change is needed, and not at the cost to your customers…

I’m happy to use their website but I’m not going to play with social media, even if that suits you and many others.

We are discussing a company that provides a phone service, so it would be reasonable to expect them to be able to handle phone calls efficiently, whether these are from mobiles or landlines.

Made everyone should opt to pay the 50p by sending them a cheque and ofc forgetting to put a stamp on the envelope Mwhahaha

On the gov.uk website they explain about the consumer rights directive

“After you buy:

where you’ve bought remotely (on the internet, by phone) or at home, you should be given the information, including total costs, in writing, and if you have cancellation rights, should be given a cancellation form

if you’ve bought away from a trader’s place of business – over the internet, or in your own home for example – you get the right to an increased ‘cooling off period’ of 14 days after buying

where the seller offers a helpline number, you should not be obliged to pay more than the basic rate to contact them about something you have bought”

Surely even an optional charge of 50p is paying more than the basic rate to contact them about something you have bought, are they therefore not breaking the spirit of the law

Very good point William as it must break the intent of the Directive even if classed as voluntary. I do not deal with EE but I suspect like all businesses they are required to answer emails Perhaps Which? can take it up and report back.

As a further help the threat implicit that the onus is on someone like EE to respond in another [read more expensive way] might be seen as a lever:

On those grounds, the Court (Fourth Chamber) hereby rules:

1. Article 5(1)(c) of Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2000 on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the internal market (‘Directive on electronic commerce’) must be interpreted as meaning that a service provider is required to supply to recipients of the service, before the conclusion of a contract with them, in addition to its electronic mail address, other information which allows the service provider to be contacted rapidly and communicated with in a direct and effective manner. That information does not necessarily have to be a telephone number. That information may be in the form of an electronic enquiry template through which the recipients of the service can contact the service provider via the internet, to whom the service provider replies by electronic mail except in situations where a recipient of the service, who, after contacting the service provider electronically, finds himself without access to the electronic network, requests the latter to provide access to another, non-electronic, means of communication.


BIG Companies/Banks/Energy Companies did to stop mugging off its customers & Taking advantage of us by trying to make new ways to make pure money for the sake of making pure money for services we don’t did or asked for 🙁 :/

Surely this is Illegal, As EE / Orange / TMobile are all ready required to offer a customer services service which should be covered by your contracts, Pay As You (PAYG), & The fact that some customer services numbers aren’t free to phone & Some are only free if you call from your mobile number, But you may not be able to call from your mobile if there’s a problem with your mobile number/phone/mobile 🙁

We shouldn’t accept queue jumping or any 1st & 2nd class services when it comes to complaints,enquiries,sales, We should all be treated 100% equal 🙂

There are better way to mug of your customers & Collecting money for little effort, Like offering special offers &/Or Accessing special services like O2 priority tickets 🙂

AL PATEL says:
16 August 2014

EE has the biggest monopoly in the UK…and they still want more revenue??
Absurd! Doing this will get all the other networks on the bandwagon! Need to be stopped!!!
Would be a different case if the 50p went to good causes…I’m definitely leaving them in Oct when my contract runs out.

Carole says:
16 August 2014

I upgraded on EE only a week ago – I so wish I’d stuck to my intention of switching! They sent me a nice new iPhone 5 in the post by next day but it came with the wrong sized SIM card. So I phoned again and was offered the 50p priority option which I declined out of principle. They probably got the extra 50p anyway by making me wait to be dealt with longer.

What’s made me really angry though is the options I was offered for them to correct their mistake. I could wait for a new sim in the post which could take 3 – 5 days, but I’d have no service while waiting – they could not keep my old phone active in the interim. Or, I could go into the shop and pick up I new one. I opted reluctantly to go into the shop (reluctant because the queues can be long and very slow). When I got to the shop they charged me £10 for the sim! I was told I would have to ring EE for a credit on my next bill – obviously I’m disgusted at this service, I kicked up a fuss and they rang and arranged the credit for me.

Trevor says:
16 August 2014

Let me get this right…their system develops a fault or they screw up with their billing … and every time it happens, I have to wait at the back of the queue or pay 50p to get someone to fix it? and if they don’t fix it first time (when do they ever?) I’m faced with the same decision?

what planet are they on?

Hey EE, we do things differently here on earth!

They’ll add (if they haven’t already) a delay timer to make you wait until such time as you think, stuff this and pay.

Charlie says:
16 August 2014

Totally Wrong Con . My Contract [Talkmobile] is due for renewal 28th this month and Orange was a possibility but now No Way. Pay to Complain – just totally unacceptable !!. If I were their Customer theres No Way I would pay. Im just glad they did it prior to my renewal. Orange have done a real Wrong Move here and I believe they will suffer immensely from it – I Really Do Hope So. I will Never Never join Orange and get Mugged.

Steve Price says:
16 August 2014

I shall not be using EE as my mobile provider.