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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

Hi all, thought you might like to see our latest Conversation – we’ve worked out that mobile companies are on course to take an extra £104m from customers over a 12 month period due to these price rises.

It was also the 1 year anniversary of Orange announcing its price rise on fixed contracts – it passed £41m on to its customers, and we’ve worked out what that would look like – 78,000 iPhone 5’s, 137,000 years of a mobile phone contract… check out our infographic and join the latest debate here: https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/orange-mobile-phone-price-rise-41m-fixed-means-fixed-campaign/

Scott Gardner says:
16 December 2012

If you are unhappy and affected by the O2 price hike mid contract…

Like the Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Say-NO-to-O2-Fixed-Price-Contract-Rises/449686115091853

Lets show O2 force in numbers!!

steve cave says:
17 December 2012

o2 so called fixed price price hike , will this be the new miss sold PPI SCAM ,

You may be interested in this latest story – a Three Mobile leaflet has been banned by the ASA, since it didn’t mention mid-contract price rises: A Which? spokesperson said, ‘This ruling is a win for consumers who are fed up with being sold ‘fixed’ mobile phone contracts that can increase in price at any time. Advertising should be clear so that people are aware that prices, and other aspects of their deal, could change.

http://www.which.co.uk/news/2012/12/three-rapped-for-misleading-leaflet—fixed-means-fixed-campaign-306750/

That is an encouraging success and it is good to hear about positive action from the ASA but the problem is that it is too late. I hope that the ASA will look very carefully at the replacement advert.

There is too much cure and not enough prevention.

I would like all companies to be given an honesty rating based on the number of complaints and withdrawals of their adverts, so that we know which companies are most deceitful.

Well done Which? but I think you have your work cut out trying to keep the mobile phone companies in order.

It’s not enough that the ASA has forced the withdrawl of one advert. Almost all the mobile companies were operating the same ‘scam’ and we should be able to claim back the extra monies we have paid on the so-called fixed contracts.

Hi all, I’ve got some promising news for you. Thanks to your support and our Fixed Means Fixed campaign, Ofcom has launched its consultation on price rises during fixed contracts – in it Ofcom has given a number options to fix the problem (it admits the current rules aren’t working). It’s preferred solution is to let customers leave their contracts without penalty if prices go up.

We still need your help to achieve the right outcome, as the mobile companies will themselves be feeding into the consultation. One option is Ofcom doesn’t do anything at all, and we don’t want that. So you can feed into the consultation on our latest post, or by visting Ofcom’s website.

Moorerobs says:
16 January 2013

I have had my contract less than a month and I have already received a letter stating that a 3.6% price increase is due, I only took the contract out a few weeks ago!!!
This is shocking!

Robert says:
16 January 2013

To me it would seem that Ofcom is a total waste of tax payers money, they do not seem to be proactive in fighting for the people that pay them. I am with Orange and have 2 mobiles on contract and what angers me is that I pay for 1Gb of data per month but I am restricted from using it as I wish due to the denial of tethering to my tablet, okay I could pay £1 per day to do so. Come on Ofcom protect those that pay you.

Darryl Boulton says:
20 January 2013

Mobile operators are doubtless just riding out the storm.

BUT if everyone complains, then asks to speak with a manager, and then escalates their complaint to a senior manager it will swamp their complaints service and cost them millions.

What Ofcom decide (and I am not holding my breath for a refund) direct lawful action such as this will have a greater impact as it will hit the companies in their pockets and they will realise it is more cost effective to remove price increases to “fixed” contracts.

I have just taken out a contract with O2 after being with my previous provider in excess of ten years. I was oblivious to the expected price hike in Feb until I read my welcoming letter stating the expected increase of 3.2%. I was not informed of this when taking out the online contract online via mobiles.co.uk and this would definitely have put a negative on O2 as my chosen provider.

The discussion is largely based on mid contract hikes, what about a week in and being notified of price hike. I have already used the phone and it won’t be considered untouched as per the returns policy. Two year tie in as well so no happy.

yoda shite says:
24 January 2013

We are watching you OFCOM. If you fudge this one or make a meaningless gesture you will lose all credibility-thats if you have any left.

Maggie says:
5 March 2013

I’ve just purchased an O2 contract by phone and was advised of the price increase whilst I was ordering the phone. The rep also told me that O2 could levy other increases during my 24 month contract.

How can you have a fixed contract which is variable?! Come on Which? and Ofcom, sort this out!

ILux says:
6 March 2013

Orange has misled me. I rang there customer service in Oct 2011 to cancel my phone as I was going to move to Tesco mobile. The Orange salesperson offered to match the tesco deal so I agreed and extended my deal for 24mths. In Nov 11 they put the price up and now they have done it again. As far as I am aware, Tesco hasn’t, so Orange sold me a contract based on matching Tesco and then broke that the following month. I am constructing my letter to their complaints department and OFCOM now.

Andi says:
11 March 2013

On OfCom’s website, under Advice & Complaints – Phones, Internet & PayTV – Contracts, the first paragraph under the heading Changes to Terms and Conditions states, “Phone and broadband providers can change the terms of a contract so long as they provide a month’s notice.
However, if you believe the change will cause you material detriment, your provider should consider this and, if they agree, allow you to end the contract without penalty.”
Surely upping the price of a contract mid-way through is to our material detriment. And therefore why are we met with a stonewall stance from our providers who say that we either have to pay the remaining balance up front, or put up with their price hike?
Their terms and conditions not only confuse you by making you visit section X which goes to Y which sends you way down the page to Z which refers you back to X again, but also – in Orange’s case – use terms like, “We do, however, reserve the right to vary the terms of this Contract from time to time and to make changes to your Service Plan.”
Just what is “from time to time”? How frequently can “from time to time” happen? It’s just too vague!

Steve says:
12 March 2013

I am still amazed that the readers don’t consider companies that actively state that they WILL NOT increase prices in mid-contract. They ARE out there, but everyone is so much in love with Vodafone/Orange/O2/TMobile that they are blind to it!
My suggestion? Stop whinging and find out your options!

On another Conversation, I asked whether this was a solution. Sean said they all have a clause allowing them to put up prices. They make use of the frequencies used by the large companies and it seems likely there will be pressure to operate in a similar way.

I think the love affair is with mobile phones more than with individual service providers.

ilux says:
12 March 2013

Unfortunately Steve not everyone is blessed with your obvious know it all knowledge. To be able to look for companies that promise not to raise the price, you would have to had realised that they could raise the price mid-contract. Many people, me included, have been with the same company for many years without mid-contract increases. The companies should only be able to change the price if you, the user, make a change or renew your terms.

Utility Warehouse has signed up to our campaign and Tesco Mobile has promised not to increase prices during fixed contracts, but would be interested to hear if you have anymore.

What I actually said was that the supermarket mobile divisions use the existing network infrastructure of the larger companies in order to provide their services, which you need to consider when looking at them as in any way real alternatives.

For instance, Tesco Mobile is being suggested here as an alternative to Three/Vodafone/Orange/O2/T-Mobile, but in fact (as far as I am aware) Tesco actually use the O2 network to provide their service, and this has proven to be a sticking point with their customers regarding the recent O2 price increases.

And once again I would point users of this forum to the WHICH? thread that deals with the recent O2 increase, in order to make up their own minds regarding using Tesco Mobile as a real alternative at this juncture.

Maggie says:
13 March 2013

I’d be interested to know who the other companies are please?

Steve says:
12 March 2013

Hi Ilux. not a know it all – just someone that has options available that some people on this site do not want to acknowledge – hence my seemingly frustrated comment. I agree that the companies involved should not be able to put their prices up mid-contract, but hey-ho!

Steve says:
12 March 2013

Patrick is right. Additional info regarding Utility Warehouse is that they had this policy in place before the Which? campaign was instigated.

I would still draw attention to the issues many users of Utility Warehouse have had, which I have commented on already elsewhere within the WHICH? forums.

Please GOOGLE Utility Warehouse reviews and read other end users poor experiences before committing in any way to that company.

Geraint says:
12 March 2013

I believe like ppi, customers should have their money returned, you either pay money towards the phone for a cheaper monthly contract, or they pay higher monthly costs to recieve the phone free but have entered the deal not aware the fixed price can go up if it goes up you should be allowed to cancel for free

Steve says:
12 March 2013

Hi Sean
I am aware of your comments regarding Utility Warehouse earlier in this thread. I understand that not everyone can be satisfied by their service. However, I seem to have noted that this thread relates to many comments voicing discontent with many of the bigger players in the industry too! It seems to me that NO company will ever be able to please all the people all of the time. Indeed, if you were to trawl the internet on ANY company, there will be a tendency to uncover hundreds of negative comments about them – that is just the way people are – happy customers tend to enjoy their service quietly, whilst unhappy customers are more likely to voice their negative thoughts.
Personally, I have not met an unhappy customer of UW yet …… but maybe it is only a matter of time!!
By the way ….. Which? seem to like them as they are regularly getting accolades in their publications!

HI Steve,

Yes I am aware that Which? seem to approve of Utility Warehouse, but that should not necessarily encourage everyone to agree with Which?, or presume that UW service is a particularly good one and based upon sound business principles.

Frankly, given what I uncovered in my own researches regarding UW, I am surprised that Which? still allegedly “hold” any positive opinion of that organisation, but I have dealt with that already elsewhere.

The opinion of Which? should never, and I am sure is not by most, to be considered as biblically “written in stone”, and therefore above further consideration and reference to sources elsewhere, by any contributor here.

Equally your argument seems to be circular, as it’s essence lies in enthusiastically suggesting UW as a real alternative to the larger networks Three/Vodafone/Orange/O2/TMobile, but then you note here that there are liable to be equally as many negative comments on the internet from dissatisfied customers regarding UW, as there are about these same larger networks?

Which begs the question, based upon that evidence, how therefore are UW to be considered in any way a potential trustworthy and viable alternative to the larger networks?

For surely if that is the case we should then all just simply stay with our existing networks, as according to your opinion, all customer accounts on the internet suggest that they are all largely the same in terms of their poor quality of service?

Your quote: “it seems to me that NO company will ever be able to please all the people all of the time”.

And if THAT is the case… then what are we all doing “wasting our time” here in the first place?

Sean – Which? is focusing on a campaign to end price rises during contracts. It would be very surprising if they did not mention that UW supports the campaign.

Maybe we will have the opportunity to discuss customer service offered by all the phone companies in another Conversation.

Suggesting that we look at reviews of UW is certainly worthwhile. I had a bad experience with Pixmania and I don’t intend to use them again. I should have read the reviews before rather than after buying. I have never used Ebuyer because that company also had many bad reviews for its customer service.

I think Which? is right to focus on the contract price issue for the moment and then explore customer service when the first battle has been won. From the various Conversations, the whole sector could do with improvement, as was the case with double glazing twenty years ago.

Hi Wavechange/Steve,

Yes I agree, and of course any contributor here, be they a private individual such as ourselves, or a representative of a company, or indeed a representative of an organisation such as Which?, has the perfect right to suggest alternatives in the market as having a policy of fixed contract prices, for as you say that is the main purpose of this thread.

But surely the argument is wider than that, and as a considerate individual, the last thing I would want to see being encouraged is a situation where thousands of unsuspecting people flock to sign up with those “suggested alternatives” only to find that they have leapt from the frying pan into yet another fire, so to speak.

This, and nothing more, is the reason my additional comments have been offered regarding the suggestions concerned, so that people have a possibility of making a potentially more informed decision before switching or attempting to switch to the likes of UW or Tesco Mobile, or any other alternatives that are offered here.

This is not to be considered as “rubbishing solutions” at all, as Steve put’s it, but adding to the discussion by suggesting individuals do more research before they make their own choices, particularly when there are those of us who have already put some personal legwork in and found the only suggested alternatives potentially wanting.

Then, and surely only then, as Steve equally notes, can one make a real choice. All I am suggesting is give those people who are reading all of this, a real opportunity and some encouragement to widen their sources first before doing so, to make sure they are getting just what they think they are getting.

Why it may be considered that this is outside of this discussion is beyond me, and I certainly don’t see it as any kind of valid reason for Steve to “depart” in such a dramatic manner.

We are all here to comment and help one another if we can, but let’s not be expected to be monochromatic and merely approving or accepting in our views whilst doing so, for this surely runs contrary to the very definiton of “discussion”.

Despite all the discussion about phone contracts and almost universal condemnation of companies that raise their prices during contracts, I have not met a single person who has expressed concern, even when I have raised the issue in conversation. I suspect that many people just view these price rises as inevitable, like increase in the price of energy, fuel and food. A major driver for switching company seems to be to get a deal that suits them best or in some cases to try to get a better signal where they live or where they work. As Steve says, no company is going to suit everyone and I don’t believe that the issues of price rises and poor consumer service are of great importance to the majority of users.

I have decided not to get a phone contract for the time being. My only reason for wanting one is because of the high cost of daytime calls to mobiles from my landline. I have decided to put up with this rather than paying for a sim-only contract with monthly renewal.