David asks: I’ve been calling the USA on my landline and have been charged a higher rate than the one advertised on my provider’s website. It said 8.45p per minute but I’ve been charged 11.2p per minute.
I have the ‘Talk Free’ home phone service from Madasafish and when I contacted them they said the rate shown was wrong. It said the prices listed online were for ‘Talk Anytime’ customers.
When I complained they refunded me the difference on this occasion but surely companies aren’t allowed to charge a higher price than advertised?
Catherine West, our telecommunications expert, responds:
Situations like this are a great reminder to us all to check our bills. If you see any charges you didn’t expect, or if any charges are higher than you think they should be, then contact your provider immediately.
It’s also worth making sure you are aware of any small print in your terms and conditions that could apply to call charges. For example, certain phone numbers that aren’t included in ‘free’ calls allowances.
In this case, the provider gave you a refund as soon as you complained, but if you aren’t happy with the response you get you can contact an independent Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme (PDF). There are two in telecoms – CISAS and the Communications Ombudsman Services so you’ll need to check which your provider belongs to.
If a company advertises a certain price but charges more it’s possible that this could be an offence under the Consumer Protection Regulations as it could be deemed a ‘misleading action’. In this case a customer may also be able to refer their complaint to Trading Standards if they aren’t happy with the response they get from the company.
Have you ever been charged a different rate to the one advertised? How did your provider respond?