/ Money, Technology

Orange puts its prices up – so why can’t you cancel?

Orange is hiking its pay monthly price plans by 4.34%. And not just for new customers – existing customers will get hit too. It doesn’t stop there – Orange won’t let you cancel your contract. Is that fair – or legal?

This morning we were alerted to Orange’s price rise announcement by an email from Aaron. He had been sent a brief text from the mobile phone network, but couldn’t quite believe it was allowed to put prices up for existing customers:

‘I do not believe that it is fair of a corporation to change the price of a contract that I signed up to, as my phone bill was essentially “fixed” every month.’

Why can’t you cancel your contract?

Orange blames the rise on inflation hitting a 20-year high, adding that this is ‘having a significant impact on business and households alike’. But Orange won’t have to suffer, instead it will simply pass the cost onto its customers:

‘Unfortunately, we’ve had to re-evaluate our prices for the first time and are sorry to say that there will be a 4.34% increase in our monthly plan prices from 8 January 2012. This is lower than the Retail Price Index (RPI) measure of inflation, which currently stands at 5.4%.’

So if you’re on a monthly price plan with Orange (and signed up to your current contract before 1 September) watch your bills go up by more than 4% next year.

The real kick comes from Orange saying you won’t be able to cancel, as Kimberly Harwood (@kimberlyharwood) told us on Twitter:

‘Can’t cancel my contract as the rise is ‘within their terms and conditions’ disgraceful! Won’t be renewing.’

Ultimately, you’re locked in. In section 4.3 of the contract, Orange states that although you’re able to terminate if it makes certain changes to the terms of your contract, you’ll be unable to do so if it puts prices up at a rate lower than the RPI measure of inflation.

Is Orange playing by the letter of the law?

I’m getting deja-vu from the T-Mobile saga, where that mobile network slashed the data allowance for its existing customers. How can it be right that a company can change the payment terms of your contract when you’re already signed up?

Is Orange behaving legally? It seems that it probably is. Our lawyer Peter McCarthy told us that Orange’s T&Cs would stand unless it could be successfully challenged as ‘unfair’.

The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 says a clause is likely to be unfair if it allows ‘a seller […] to increase their price without […] giving the consumer the corresponding right to cancel the contract if the final price is too high in relation to the price agreed when the contract was concluded’.

Ultimately, the success of any such challenge against Orange would depend on whether the increase was considered to be significant or not.

Ofcom cites material detriment

We also got in touch with the regulator Ofcom, to see whether you should have the right to terminate your contract with Orange. It told us that customers will only be able to cancel if the changes are likely to be of ‘material detriment’ (as per Section 9.6 of the Communications Act 2003) which in this particular case, Ofcom was unable to verify.

However, you do have the right ‘to challenge the matter through the provider’s complaint process and, failing that, via Alternative Dispute Resolution.’

Nevertheless, even if Orange is playing by the book, is it being fair to its existing customers? Should companies be able to change prices mid-way through your contract, even if it has allowed itself to do so in the small print? And finally, will you stick with Orange when your contract comes up for renewal? Somehow I doubt it.

Comments
Alana says:
12 December 2011

Can I just say I have just come off the phone with Orange tonight, after a two hour nightmare. I too rang up when I received the text message informing me of the price increase. I queried the matter and made it clear that I felt it was highly unethical of Orange to increase prices mid contract. Like many of you I feel strongly about the principle that a contract is a contract and should be upheld. I was assured this only affected customers with pay monthly contracts taken out before mid- September this year. As mine was October 5th it didn’t apply to me, although when pushed the man could not rule out further price increases for those not affected this time around in the future.

Having logged into my Orange account I have today discovered that this adviser has put my monthly price plan up without my consent after this call on December 3rd. Not only have I received the most appalling customer service and blatant lies trying to resolve this issue tonight I have also been informed that the price rise does affect me in January after all. When I questioned why I was told despite my contract beginning in October it was based on April’s price plan.

Believe me when I say I am beyond fuming! How can this be? Orange communication clearly states contracts before mid -September only. I sincerely hope Ofcom investigates this. I raise this because if others are thinking their contracts are safe as they are out of the cut off date, please take heed of what I discovered tonight.

Not only have I been lied too, had my contract changed without my permission, they have refused to let me speak to a supervisor or listen to the recorded calls from that date to prove my innocence. Also the service agent kept pressing buttons on the phone during my conversation to effectively bleep me out so I couldn’t hear her correctly. When I had enough of her behaviour and I asked to be put through to the cancellations department I was refused unless I verbally agreed to pay a penalty fee to get out of the contract. Naturally I told her no. This necessitated another two phone calls on hold for 20 mins before answering each time of which one of the agents cut me off when I explained all the reasons why I was unhappy and I felt the contract was of material detriment and I wanted to leave.

A truly terrible company with appalling service!

Personally, I believe Orange have just given you a “way out” Alana, as the actions of their advisor puts them in breach of contract.
*Keeping incorrect phone records is a criminal offence under the Data Protection Act – I would report this to the information commissioner’s office.
* Knowingly manipulating a contract agreement for financial/material gain, at the expense of another party comes under the fraud act.

I would ring cancellations and request a supervisor then demand a returns address, to send your handset back. If they claim their is a penalty or charge to pay, I’d tell them they are in breach of contract and you could prove it. Then request recordings of the calls.
It is disgusting that people are left by Ofcom on this, it acts as a green light to abuse customers.
I hope Ofcom are proud of the actions of orange’s staff, as they are condoning it by ignoring what’s happening.

Jason says:
14 December 2011

Ofcom seem to be to busy dealing with the 2000 complaints because Matthew Wright said “there’s been another murder” in a scottish accent. Imagine that!! someone putting on an accent that isn’t their own!!! Dick Van Dyke is in serious trouble!

Anyway it makes you wonder how Ofcom work! 2000 people complaining about a presenter commenting on a news issue using a phrase from Taggart in Taggarts accent, result investigation, people complaing about Orange disregarding Ofcoms own regulations, nothing!

Also didn’t Ofcom say they don’t release the number of complaints they receive! Obviously there is an exception to this when its a ridiculous complaint and they have to justify their investigation by releasing the numbers!

mark wise says:
12 December 2011

Like ppi was mis sold orange have misled and mis sold their contracts, not pointing out that prices can rise in a fixed price contract. Ofcom have shown themselves up, as useful as the fsa, and orange have and will say goodbye to a lot of customers

I will be amongst the droves leaving this dreadful company as soon as I possibly can. 17 months into a 24 month contract and they still can’t provide a reliable service. For example I can receive a text message, and when I attempt to reply from exactly the same spot, without moving, the message fails to send as there is allegedly no signal. I receive texts saying I have missed a call when the phone has not even rung. This company is worse than useless, more so since it merged with t-mobile. This price increase is unadulterated theft.

My saga with this company of ill repute continues. Not only have they ripped me off of over £200 to get out of my contract, they now want an extra £20 to unlock the phone which I have bought from them so I can use it on another network. How can this theft be legal?

shaun says:
14 December 2011

Just go to Dr unlock will only cost you about £20

Thanks shaun, I will check that out

Lindy says:
16 December 2011

Patrick,

I thought some people were getting somewhere with this what happened to their comments (his name began with M and I think included a U, H and J) – although there did seem to be some heated dialogue between a couple of people

Have you seen the link to previous pages, Patrick?

Sorry – I meant Lindy!

Jack Manuel says:
2 January 2012

I will not be renewing my contract when the time is up, I think this is discasful.

Johnny says:
2 January 2012

I cancelled my contract with this company, the worst mobile phone company I have ever had the misfortune to use. No useable signal anywhere in the UK I go, and totally unreliable. I had to pay them dearly to get out of my contract, but they are worse than useless anyway so I am glad to be shot of them, and delighted to be able to use my phone at home without going outside. Their final insult was to charge me an extra £20 to unlock my phone so I could use my new network card. They are the most unscrupulous of companies, happy to rip off the customers – modern day highway robbers. Never again.

I have been an Orange customer for about 8 years – and they couldn’t wait until my renewal in 10 months to increase the price. Sums up Orange’s approach to customer service.

Stewart- says:
6 January 2012

Now having left Orange for several months now I can see the problems others are having is commonpalce
I left Orange after around 14 years (with a 6 month gap in the middle). In the end I was gald to be shot of them as they are a complete nightmare
I have moved to Tesco mobile – with the rest of my family.
My kids are on CAPPED contracts with Tesco- who use the O2 network.
This means that they can’t spend over their bill amount- no expensive texts or photo messages unless they top up (top up the CONTRACT number with a voucher to put it in credit). What a good idea- this means you can go abroad, add money to your mobile account balance and you stop getting calls when you run out of credit

Rain657 says:
27 January 2012

I hate orange. My contract is coming to an end August and I have quite frankly had enough already. I will be going to the local phone shop to get bought out where possible and get a new phone. they are impossible to get hold of, no one speaks a word of english and I think they just make up the monthly payments? I get unlimited txts and 900 minutes and unlimted internet. My contract is 40£ per month and yet I am constantly paying over £50-£55 I do not send picture messages, I never go over my call limits…. ?! I refuse to pay by direct debit because they could not even get that right when I first joined and it took 4 months into the contract to actually sort out the payments and the total mess up of the direct debit ( as it was an old orange payg phone you could upgrade contract) but they were STILL taking the money for the OLD number too…. Oh and their coverage is rubbish, considering they are also in cahoots with Tmobile – who are equally as cr4p… grrrrr. back to Vodafone I go….

EdwinB says:
4 February 2012

I was very upset when Orange pushed up the price of my contract, because my understanding was that we agreed on a fixed price for my 2 year plan. I went to my local Orange shop (Woking) and they told me that it was a goverment levy and all mobile phone companies are pushing up their prices. Not only is thier contracts worthless, but their staff lied to me as well.
My contract is up at the end of this month and I’m protesting with my feet. They have lost a good customer.

This is exactly why the so called regulator should be stepping in on behalf of customers and justifying the Millions of pounds of taxpayer (read: customer) funding!

Ofcom have been posting on twitter on an almost weekly basis, about the numbers of complaints received for various complaints, yet refuse to reveal how many complaints have been received about this issue.
What exactly are customers (taxpayers) paying for with this limp, ineffective quango?
If the industry regulator is turning a blind eye and letting companies such as orange get away with clear abuses of contracts and misleading sales quotes about the amount of money their mobile phone contracts charge each month – without revealing the price is not fixed and could increase, then what chance does any customer in any field of business have?

This issue really does anger me, it could be stopped so easily, how much longer must the UK people wait for some action that protects them?
I’d like to see the figures from orange regarding the amounts of money that customers have been forced into paying for buying out of their contracts!

Couldn’t agree more, Frugal Ways. In my view, Ofcom is about as effective as a regulator as Murdoch would be for the newspaper industry.

Ofcom constantly sides with the industry and rarely protects the consumers it was set up to protect. Cosy isn’t the word for it!

Isn’t Which? able to carry out some lobbying action here to remove Ofcom and replace it with something that has some teeth?

Has anyone experienced having trouble logging on to Orange online account for past few months?
I have been trying for several months to check my monthly bills and it keeps coming up as my password being incorrect, I have tried to reset it with new password number of times but same message keeps coming up. don’t get paper bills so the only way to check is by my online account,wonder if its anything to do with the price increase fiasco and Orange don’t want their customers checking online of what they have been charged.
Any suggestion on what how I can find out, calling them is a nightmare time consuming.

David T says:
18 February 2012

Aruna – I have experience the same problem. Its just pants! Its supposed to enable us to view our accounts and it never seems to work. I requested a reset of the password and received a text a day later with the new password which didn’t work. I went through the process 14 times (over a month) and gave up. I’m looking to move, after 13 years, once they get around to unlocking my phone.

Alice says:
1 April 2012

I’ve had exactly the same problem, at first i just thought it was me not putting my password in correctly. But obvioulsy not!
Im just over half way through a 24-month contract and desperately want to cancel as the phone and service are useless!! I havent got the money to pay off the contract, but i cant afford to keep paying the ridiculous bills each month either!
When i took out the contract i was under the impression that the contract was fixed at £25 per month however that wasnt the case, i have VAT on top of this! I never go over any of my texts, internet or mins, but seem to be paying in the region of £30-37 per month instead!! Its absolutely ridiculous!! I will be changing services as soon as possible!!

PLZ Help…:(
I belong to India but presently in Switzerland as a student. The problem started when i purchased iphone+orange on contract basis for 2 years monthly pay. But they promised me if i leave the country in the middle like after 1 year,the contract will get cancel and i can take the iphone back to india with me.
Now i am leaving the country but they have refused and said you will have to pay the rest of the amount with fine before leaving. I dnt have a single penny to pay and they have refused to take the iphone back. There is no one to take the contract 🙁 .
I cnt pay then iphone will get blocked which is ok for me !
But What can happen if i leave the country without paying??

Hi David,

I have been with them for over same number of years as you, I have till Jan 2013 than definatley switching.They just don’t seem to care for there customers anymore.The only way I can check my bill is through my bank statements but can’t check in details.
It seems like Regulators do not have a say in what this big companies do anymore.

Hi David..
thank you for replying..
But are you still paying your bills? or you mean to say if i leave the country then nothing thay will do other than blocking the iphone?? i am just concerned if they take any leagal action against me??

Shaukat says:
23 March 2012

as inflation is now creeping back down, is EE / Orange planning to reduce its charges, in line with this inflation reduction ?

Roy H says:
30 March 2012

T – Mobile now on the same trick – cite T & C’s but can’t answer when questioned as to whether brought to the customers attention specifically at any point nor can they answer when T & C’s not issued or signed on contract renewal.

Totally unethical – probably illegal but how can the end user challenge huge international corporates? the only way is let the media castigate them and customers to walk.

Roy L says:
2 April 2012

Ive just got the same letter from t-moble, im fuming as i deliberatly asked if they could change prices mid term as i got stung by vodaphone some years back, the agent specifically said that t-mobile never do this as it was unethical.
I will be calling there retentions later then seriously think about making a complaint to ofcom about this.
My contract is up in october for one line and july 2013 for the other (24 month contract).
I have now been stung twice by these mobile operators and will never take out another contract, we have 3 mobiles between myself and the wife, giffgaff are gona get all our custom from now on i think,
talk about shoot themselves in the foot, they will end up with no one on contracts if you can not rely on the prices given at the point of sale.

weni says:
4 April 2012

Likewise, recieved a text from Oranges sister company T-Mobile about a price hike today. Nothing was ever mentioned about this possibility at the time of renewal and I did ask if my direct debit would remain the same through the term of my new contract. I was told it definatley would.

Hi Weni, we’ve covered the T-Mobile hike on Convo too if you want to join in this debate…https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/tmobile-price-rise-monthly-contracts-cancel-everything-everywhere/