/ Technology

Fixed should mean fixed with mobile contract prices

Today’s the day Three puts its prices up for existing customers already tied in to ‘fixed’ contracts. And today’s the day we ask Ofcom to stamp out this practice. We need your support to ensure that Fixed Means Fixed.

Did you know your fixed mobile contract could go up in price at any time? When we recently asked more than 1,500 UK adults with a mobile contract, 70% said they didn’t know companies were able to do so.

That’s despite a spate of price hikes from Britain’s biggest mobile providers; Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile and Three. It’s an issue I’m sure many of you are familiar with here on Which? Conversation – over 1,700 comments have been made by angry mobile customers hit by such price rises.

Pledge your support for Fixed Means Fixed

If you sign up to a 12 to 24 month contract at an advertised price of ‘£25 per month’, I’m sure you’d be surprised if you were told you had to pay more. You’d probably be outraged if you weren’t allowed to cancel without having to pay penalty. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what mobile companies have got away with.

Why? Most mobile companies’ T&Cs include a caveat that lets them put up prices by the RPI rate of inflation. And this can vary – last year Orange hiked prices by 4.34%, and this year Three put them up by 3.6%. You’ve been with us every step of the way and your comments haven’t fallen on deaf ears – we think it’s time to tell mobile companies that Fixed Means Fixed.

It’s simple; if a customer signs up to a fixed deal, where they can be tied in for up to two years, then all of the terms of that deal, including price, should be fixed for the contract’s duration.

If a mobile company feels it needs to put up prices, it should factor this into deals for new customers and not impose such hikes on existing customers who are already locked in. We have submitted a formal complaint to Ofcom packed full of your feedback and we need your support to help make it stand up and take notice:


Providers may protest that their price rises aren’t significant for individual customers, but we’ve worked out that with around 10.5 million Brits affected so far, consumers have spent almost £34.5m extra as a result. In a year, mobile companies could make a hugely significant £90m. That’s £90m that we, the customers, didn’t think we’d agreed to when we signed our contracts.

Shifting the balance of power back in your favour

If mobile providers can’t or won’t commit to Fixed Means Fixed not only should they be upfront about this in their advertising, they should give customers the ability to cancel without penalty if they change the deal. This means you could refuse a contract with variable terms, or accept a contract with fixed terms and cancel if those terms change.

If you agree with our campaign, show your support using the pledge above. The balance of power needs to be put back in your favour – Ofcom must intervene now and stamp out this practice so that you can be confident that fixed really does mean fixed.

Comments
Steve says:
13 March 2013

Hi Sean

One does the research and one makes a choice! That is everyone’s prerogative. Final decision is up to the individual.
All I am saying is that there are options that, because of lack of visibility (UW do not advertise other than word-of-mouth and personal recommendation) most people will not have heard of. In saying that, UW are growing quickly and now have in excess of 450,000 customers. Still a minnow in terms of the Big Boys, but growing rapidly.

Anyway, I am not here to rabbit on about UW to individuals that have already placed them in the box ready for the dump. It just annoys me when I see everyone complaining and not offering a solution – and when solutions are placed on the table, they are rubbished. Not waht I believe a discussion should be!
Bye Bye, everyone
steve

By the way, there’s only a day left before Ofcom closes its consultation into price rises during fixed contracts. Have your say by voting in our poll and watch our new Fixed Means Fixed video:

matt says:
19 March 2013

o2 say…
http://www.o2.co.uk/desktop/prices
When we first announced the price change back on 11 December 2012, the published UK inflation rate was 3.2%. Inflation is measured by the Retail Price Index (sometimes called RPI). You can find out more about the Retail Price Index and inflation here>>> http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/cpi/consumer-price-indices/october-2012/index.html

but in the real world rpi only went up to 3.1% check out here>>
http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/cpi/consumer-price-indices/december-2012/stb—consumer-price-indices—december-2012.html#tab-Retail-Prices-Index–RPI–compared-with-Consumer-Prices-Index–CPI–

so,
Are you (o2) allowed to put my price up?
In certain circumstances, yes. It’s in our standard terms and conditions. Clause 5 says:

5.2 We may increase or decrease our Charges from time to time. If we increase our Charges (apart from for Additional Services), we’ll let you know at least 30 days before the Charges are due to go up and you’ll have the rights explained in paragraphs 5.3 and 5.4. We won’t increase your Monthly Subscription Charges more than once in any 12 month period.

Has O2 ever DECREASED its charges? Just asking, not stirring!

Pete says:
30 March 2013

TalkMobile have sent me a lovely text saying I will be paying “A small inflationary increase of 55p….” I’ve got 9 months of my 24 left. Here’s a link to there justification: talkmobile.co.uk/junepricing
I like most didn’t read all the small print and just believed fixed meant fixed. If nothing else I think the mobile companies should not be allowed to use the word fixed as it clearly is not. You never know, it might give the banks an idea on how to steal more from us by adding RPI increases during fixed term mortgage period.

Thanks for alerting us to Talkmobile’s price rise. Here are the details: http://www.talkmobile.co.uk/junepricing/

You won’t be able to cancel without penalty – once again proves the need to sort this out once and for all.

Welwyntone says:
9 April 2013

The majority of fixed price mobile phone contracts include an allowance towards the purchase of the phone and this can be typically 50% of the monthly fee. When judging a price increase the phone companies should only really look at the service element of the fee and not the element that recovers the cost of the phone as that will not be affected by inflation. So on a typical mobile phone contract, if the service element increases by (say) 3.3% the overall monthly bill should only be affected by half the amount (1.66%).

I have just read the comment by Welwyntone and it seems to me that he/she is missing the point about the price increases by the various mobile companies. The concern isn’t that the price increase should not include the cost of the phone, it is the fact that these companies are selling “Fixed price” contracts when they (and everybody else) knows that they are not fixed and that there is also no get out clause available to the customers. I know this because I also had a contract with Vodafone and when I tried to cancel after a price hike, I was told that I could cancel but that I would have to pay the outstanding monies on said contract, so I had to suffer for over twelve months paying the extra. In fact, the rental was increased half way through the second year. I fully endorse Which’s campaign and also think the phone companies should be made to pay back all the customers they have ripped off over the years (can’t see that happening though!)

Arnie says:
12 April 2013

I am surprised no one has started a campaign for everyone to stop paying the mobile providers for a month or two. They cannot take everyone to court. However, as someone has pointed out, people are so in love with their wretched mobiles they will do anything to keep them.

Still if Ofcom were doing their (well paid) job we would not be in this mess.

Jim says:
23 April 2013

I took out a 2 year fixed price contract with T mobile in february this year and yes you have guessed it, they have just put it up due to inflation! 8 weeks into a contract and they are already turning the screw just what is going on?

Matthew Bonner says:
1 May 2013

When is something going to be done to protect our consumer rights? The unfair trading practices combined with the misrepresentation of contract many have faced by being told by the sales person in the shop where they took our their contract that prices would not increase is becoming beyond a joke.

I tried to cancel my account due to the two reasons stated and was still told that I would be charged a penalty for cancelling. In exchange I was offered more minutes if I decided not to cancel.

In the end I decided enough is enough, have cancelled the direct debit and am now pursuing the case in court, however it would be nice if Which? would be able to assist me in this by providing template letters and other such services like you have in the past, as in the case of the unfair banking charges.

BillyMac10 says:
3 May 2013

All,

And here we have the industry response to OFCOM’s consultation saying that it is unfair to regulate mobile companies in favour of consumers and that we, as consumers, should know better and that they should be able to put up prices and not let us exit without penalty. Indeed in their response they say that consumers should bear the risk of price increases and that companies cannot plan ahead – this I find unbelievable that a copmpany with all their resources and I imagine planning teams cannot do their job properly it is down to teh consumer to bear!!!!!
I know they are only doing their job representing the enemy in this case but they don’t seem to get the fact that calous sales-people state fixed price for the term of the contract.

The address and telephone number of the organisation are printed on the front – perhaps we should let them know what we feel about it being our fault.

http://www.fcs.org.uk/my%20files/fcs_pdfs/responses/13-03-14%20price%20rises%20in%20fixed%20term%20contracts%20-fcs%20response%20-final.pdf

And yet these very same mobile companies were more than able to plan ahead it seems up until only last year…

Perhaps it has something to do with the Mayan Calendar…

Or simply the wind is now in the wrong direction and their mobile masts have all gone wibbly wobbly and their poor brains have gone all fuzzy and can’t calculate reliably any more… or some such reasonable reason like that… you know?

Jax says:
3 July 2013

They do it because they can. Unfortunately.

BillyMac10 says:
3 May 2013

And does nayone know when OFCOM will release their findings, I’m waiting with baited breath!

Baited breath? I’m sure we will catch some information from OFCOM soon. 🙂

BillyMac10 says:
3 May 2013

I might have spealt it wrong (he he) but look it up, it’s been used for centuries from shakespear to Harry Potter! Holding my breath for an answer and with emotion!

It’s an extremely common error, and sorry for the humorous comment. I agree with you about wanting more input from Ofcom. They may be the regulator, but I see them as part of the problem.

Hi Billy, Ofcom will announce its decision in June.

BillyMac10 says:
3 May 2013

No worries Wavechange, a good humourous exchange for a Friday afternoon!
Agree with comment ‘Ofcom’ allowed material detriment to be used by Mobile providers as a get out clause as otherwise unfair contract terms would be used and we as consumers wouldn’t suffer.

tony says:
10 June 2013

My Tmobile (EE) contract was £30 per month it has now gone up to £40 per month surely a 25% increase is excessive?

Sorry for the late reply Tony. That doesn’t sound right at all – can you tell us more?

Jax says:
3 July 2013

It seems totally wrong that is legal that a Telecoms company can hold me to a 2 year contract with a negotiated monthly rate which they can then increase at will. This must be the very definition of an unfair and unbalanced contract! Yet this is exactly what Orange have done to me. And there is nothing I can do.

So when are we going to hear anything more about the sanctions imposed by OFCOM on the mobile phone providers/any response at all!!!

This has desended into farce, most people effected probably are or very soon to be, out of contract anyway.

It should of been a super complaint, action insisted upon immediately & to be left hanging indefinately with no updates as to what is keeping us waiting for further information is the final insult.

Could someone please ask OFCOM when we are going to get closure on this issue or/and when are we going to get any more information at all. It said 3 months, it’s 4 now?

David says:
22 July 2013

Just had a conversation with Virgin regarding my “fixed price contract”….They want over £500 from me to get out of my “fixed price contract”, even though they have put the price up – I feel I have been mis-sold a product….I thought fixed price meant fixed price….silly me

jim stewart says:
22 July 2013

So, Patrick Steen, depiste all of those that pledged support for the Which? campaign fixed contract prices are still going up and nothing from Ofcom (although you suggested they’d report in June).
It’s over a year (17/7/12) since you wrote that people power would be a better strategy than a super complaint. What now?

Anthony U says:
22 July 2013

I agree. When are Which going to give us any answers? You begged us for support which you got and then?

Billymac10 says:
22 July 2013

If Which? Actually got a result out of this I night subscribe but I’ve seen no evidence that my paid subscription would achieve anything.

what needs to happen is to challenge OFCOM itself – I was trying searching OFCOMs site last week to find anything on when the fixed price review will be published and nearly choked on my drink when I found some dribble from them suggesting that the broadband/phone industry is in good health thanks to OFCOM ensuring competition and that providers would have to reimburse customers when they lose service for a period. HAVE YOU EVER TRIED GETTING MONEY BACK OR REFUNDS FRM SKY OFCOM WHEN YOU HAVE NO SERVICE FOR OVER TWO WEEKS?

I have no faith in this regulator whatsoever

Steve says:
23 July 2013

Which? have already given you answers, but no-one is reading them! They have already highlighted companies that DO NOT hike prices mid-contract!
No-one seems to concern themselves with such positive updates – they only want to complain about the Big Boys that DO hike the prices !

Listen ! If you want to show these Big Boys that you won’t play their game, then MOVE TO A COMPANY THAT LISTENS!

Wanna know who they are? Then read your back issues!

Stop complaining and just ACT!