Mobile phone shop assistants are still telling customers that their ‘fixed’ contract prices won’t increase, despite hikes from all major mobile companies. This is even after they’ve promised to improve staff training.
It’s been 10 months since we last went into mobile phone shops to see whether staff were making it clear that fixed mobile contracts weren’t actually fixed in price.
Last September, we went undercover into shops from the mobile networks O2, Orange, Three, T-Mobile and Vodafone, as well as independent chains Carphone Warehouse and Phones4U. Back then, only 8% of mobile shop assistants mentioned that prices could increase on fixed contracts.
Shockingly, they fared even worse this year when we repeated the exercise – none of the assistants told us upfront that contract prices could increase!
This is despite providers last year promising that they would improve staff training. We’ve also seen new mid-contract price rises, including from Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile, O2 and Talkmobile (owned by Carphone Warehouse).
When our mystery shoppers asked assistants outright, 57% still maintained that prices would stay the same over the length of the contract. And even when we pointed out that most networks had increased their prices in the last year, 42% said it wouldn’t happen again – up from 28% in our last investigation.
Government and the recession blamed
There were poor and confused answers as well – some staff claimed prices were ‘guaranteed’, while others said that price changes were down to the government. One member of staff pointed to the recession: ‘We had a price increase but it was by, like, 0.2%, that’s nothing we can control, it’s to do with like recession and all of that stuff’.
None of this is true. It’s the sole decision of mobile providers themselves to hike prices on contracts that most people believe are fixed in price, not just fixed in length. Inflation and rising business costs have been pointed to by providers, but these explanations don’t fly with consumers. More than 45,000 people have pledged support for our Fixed Means Fixed campaign, which launched following more than 3,000 comments from unhappy mobile customers here on Which? Conversation.
We think fixed should mean fixed, and if mobile providers want to break their end of the bargain, you should be able to escape your contract without penalty. We’ve submitted our latest research to Ofcom, and now await the outcome of its consultation into the issue. We hope the regulator will announce new rules that will ensure phone companies play fair by their customers.
Were you clearly told that your ‘fixed’ mobile contract might go up in price before you signed on the dotted line?