/ Technology

A win for our Fixed Means Fixed mobile campaign

Contracts, of any kind, can be a minefield and this was especially so for mobile phones. So we launched our Fixed Means Fixed campaign to address this. Well we’ve had a long awaited win today for this campaign. So how could this help you?

Things were so different in 2013. Selfies were everywhere, Chelsea were a decent football team and mobile phone providers were hiking mobile phone bills mid-contract without telling us before we took out a contract. How things have changed, well, apart from selfies.

Back in 2013 we had a win for our Fixed Means Fixed campaign. With your help we saw a change to the rules on mobile phone contracts after thousands of you helped us put pressure on the regulator and industry.

Together we convinced Ofcom to issue new rules so providers couldn’t hike prices mid-contract whenever they felt like it. But it wasn’t all as rosy as we’d hoped for.

Mobile malpractice

You might remember that to our great disappointment, O2 decided to go against the spirit of the new Ofcom rules by writing into customers’ contracts that they definitely would increase prices annually. Nearly 8,000 of you joined us asking O2 not to go ahead but they continued on that course, followed closely by EE.

We then complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about an O2 advert which claimed customers could get a £14 a month fixed mobile contract, despite the price only applying for one month of a two-year contract. The small print however, stated that prices would rise by the rate of inflation so a customer would only get one month at £14 before their bill went up.

We thought this was outrageous, you shouldn’t have to scrutinise the small print to figure out whether the advertised price of a mobile contract is in fact the price you’ll pay.

ASA win

Now, almost two years later the ASA has published their final decision.

The ASA has said that the O2 advert was likely to mislead because:

‘The monthly price of a contract was likely to be of significance to consumers when deciding on a mobile phone contract, the monthly increase within the term amounts to a significant term, which should be made clear to a consumer.’

And has concluded that:

‘The ad failed to make clear the RPI (Retail Price Index) price rise to airtime plans and was misleading.’

This important decision means that telecoms companies should be much clearer upfront about any intended price rises during the term of a contract and can’t hide mid-contract price hikes in the small print.

We are of course continuing to campaign for fairer mobile deals. But we’d like to know your thoughts on this ASA ruling. Is this welcomed news for you? Or do you think it’s just a small step towards fairer practice?

Comments
Member

I am impressed by the speed that the ASA made their decision. And so encouraging that such a difficult point was discerned as being misleading.

Member

Do I detect a note of sarcasm DT? I hope so. It only (only?) took 2 years (by which time the “fixed contract” has finished)? And “fixed” and “rise” created a difficult point to discern?

I do not know, unless I have missed something crucial, why such a matter could take so long to decide. On the basis of the intro common sense should give the answer in about 2 minutes.

Do all those affected subscribers get a rebate?

Member

Well done Which?

This is an important victory because if we had put up with mobile service providers increasing monthly payments during contracts we might see monthly payments start to rise during the duration of contracts for other goods and services. The important parts of the small print need to be in large print!

Member
Mrs T Bradford says:
3 February 2016

Well done ASA a long overdue victory for all mobile users!

Member

As I see it O2 are still gong to increase prices every April, the only difference is they will have to say so in their advertising. Hope I have misinterpreted the announcement because what we need is for O2 to really fix the 24 months contract cost. At the moment with RPI relatively low it’s just a few pence increase but compounded each year.

Member

I am glad that ASA agreed that the ad was unfair. My sons take out contracts and do read the wording but still found themselves locked into long term expensive contracts. Part of the issue is the lack of competition and I would like to see more companies following suit charging less. Another issue is obtaining expensive phones through a contract. I have a pay as you go for emergencies and use my landline for the majority of my calls. When I say thing I am looked at with complete disbelief but it works and I have control over my costs. Perhaps this is the way that mobiles should go then the costs really would be easier to compare.

Member

I thought the ASA were a body that is paid for by the tv companies. It is the ASA who think they’re better at assessing whether something is decent honest and truthful even when thousands complain . In other words, they’re biased and irrelevant. I would have thought a higher (government) body should have been approached to achieve a more watertight and timely ruling on this.

Member
Stephen Biggs says:
3 February 2016

They are so long and full of lawyer speak you just give up. They need to be in plain language.