Did you know your ‘fixed’ mobile contract can go up in price? No? Maybe that’s because, as our recent mystery shopping reveals, many phone shop assistants don’t explain that at the point of sale.
Last month we launched our Fixed Means Fixed campaign following your complaints about price hikes from four of the main mobile providers.
One commenter, Keving, argued that, ‘the possibility of [the monthly price] changing is never pointed out at the time of sale’. We had a suspicion that this might be close to the truth, so we decided to go undercover.
Customers misled over fixed prices
We sent our team of mystery shoppers to 39 mobile phone shops across England who posed as customers interested in taking out a new contract. We wanted to see whether customers are told that phone companies can increase the monthly price despite the contract being fixed.
When the shop assistants initially explained the deal on offer, an overwhelming 92% failed to explain this to our shoppers. And, when we asked directly whether the price would be fixed, 82% of assistants said the price would stay exactly the same for the duration of the contract.
The shop assistants explained this with responses including, ‘we legally can’t [raise the price] because you sign up for that contract for 24 months’, and, ‘everything will stay exactly the same for the whole two years’ and that this was ‘fully guaranteed’. We were even rather ironically advised that the phone contract should give us ‘total peace of mind’, because the price can ‘never change’.
Have a watch of our undercover video for a snapshot of what we found, and how Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile and Three Mobile responded to our findings:
Later in the conversation our shoppers mentioned the recent price rises by four of the major phone companies, but even then, 28% of assistants still insisted that the price was fixed.
Those 72% that did eventually say the price could change often gave very confused explanations about the reasons, with few mentioning that they were imposed by the phone companies themselves. One assistant blamed the price rises on Ofcom, a second said it ‘mainly affects pay-as-you-go customers’ and a third claimed prices would only go up ‘if the government changes the VAT’ – which is all nonsense.
Our campaign – pledge your support
To sum it up, our research shows that even the companies’ own staff think that ‘fixed’ applies to the price. We’re not happy, and neither are you – over 18,000 of you have backed our campaign so far.
So, there clearly is a problem with the way you’re being sold phone contracts. However, we don’t just want clearer T&Cs and better trained shop assistants, we want fixed phone contracts to really mean fixed. Were you told that your phone contract’s price could change before you signed on the dotted line?