/ Technology

The Orange saga – complaining isn’t getting us anywhere

Orange’s price rise has unleashed a huge amount of consumer anger, and the mobile operator now has the dubious honour of being in our top 10 most-commented Convos. So what are we concerned about at Which?

What’s so striking is just how annoyed Orange customers are to find that their mobile phone contract is not, as they thought, a fixed sum for a fixed period.

While it’s all a bit embarrassing to have your existing customers so unhappy, it seems that Orange won’t be changing its mind, even though it might be a bit red faced. At least, not unless people power persuades it to.

Like many other companies, Orange faces rising costs due to these tricky economic times and it’s having to pass this on to its customers through increased prices. But this episode has raised some questions we don’t yet have all the answers to. Here are some of the ones we’re trying to get to the bottom of here at Which?

1. How many were clearly told that their contract allows price rises?

Very few it would seem. To be told after the event that the T&Cs allow for a price rise just creates greater annoyance, since the vast majority of customers probably thought their contract was for a fixed price for a fixed term.

When we spoke to Orange about this, we pressed it to ensure that:

  • Future price rises are better communicated – preferably not only by text.
  • And sales agents alert customers to the small print which states their contract may not necessarily be at a fixed price.

Only time will tell whether mobile companies will offer genuinely fixed price contracts. But, from your reaction, it sounds like this is what you want and expect (though a 30-day rolling contract is another option some operators offer, which lets you switch more easily.)

2. Just what is the point of CISAS?

CISAS is Orange’s independent complaints handling body, as approved by Ofcom. However, it has told many of you that it has no remit to deal with complaints about ‘business decisions’.

I was particularly amazed to see CISAS referring commenter Mike’s complaint to Citizens Advice. Surely that’s passing the buck. Some information on its website would have been helpful, but after a week its ‘News’ page is still blank!

Now, it’s true that CISAS can’t consider a consumer complaint until Orange’s internal complaints handling process has been exhausted, or if you’ve not heard anything for eight weeks (whichever comes first). However, it’s been unhelpful (to put it mildly) to have Ofcom referring customers to CISAS but then have CISAS say it can’t do anything. That does not sound like joined up working!

3. Has Orange broken Ofcom’s rules or not?

Our lawyers have confirmed that Orange’s T&Cs do enable it to increase prices within RPI, though the wording of their standard contract could be clearer (something Orange has promised us it would look into).

However, what exactly is Ofcom’s view on whether it’s right to increase prices for existing customers on an agreed contract? We’ve asked and we’re awaiting a reply.

By the same token, could we ever expect an operator to reduce prices for existing customers? Somehow I doubt it, but maybe there’s an example out there that we don’t know about.

The gist of this issue is summed up by the comments about whether a mobile phone contract is like buying a loaf of bread or not. It seems we, the consumers, think our contracts are for a set time and price. But they, the mobile operators, think it’s like a loaf of bread (or should I say it’s like an orange) where the price can change. We wait to see what Ofcom thinks.

[UPDATE 08/11/2011 4PM] We have been in touch with Ofcom and it has now told us it will not be taking complaints against Orange any further:

‘Having assessed the complaints against the relevant consumer legislation, Ofcom has decided, on the evidence available, not to proceed with an investigation at this time as [Orange’s] price rise is not likely to be a breach of current legislation.’

You can read the full statement in Rob Reid’s comment, or by visiting our Which? Tech Daily blog.

Before Orange’s price rise, did you know mobile contracts weren’t at a fixed price?

No, I didn’t realise they could increase prices (94%, 977 Votes)

Yes, I knew they weren’t at a fixed price (6%, 58 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,036

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Frustrated Orange Cu says:
25 December 2011

I signed away my peace of mind to Orange in October 2011, when I singed contract for 24 months. Here in nutshell I put them:
1) My package details incorrectly on their database which didn’t include mobile internet allowance. This means they charged me £30 more in the first month.
2) I raised this issue with them in the first week even before the first bill was issued. I spent hours for sorting this out on 150, yet they said they can’t do anything other than refunding on next bill.
3) 8 out of 10 times online account is not accessible.
4) WiFi connection: They said BTOpen zone will need password first time and then no need to enter the password again. But each time it requires password.
5) Bundle information after sending text to 150 is not real time. It is always 24-72 hours old.
6) I spoke to customer care on 20th Dec inquiring about online account acess. They said they are updating their systems which means 70% of the customers won’t have access for a month – Dec. But then where is that communique from the Orange to their customers. I never received any such information.

Leo Murray says:
28 December 2011

I was enticed by Orange to move from my Sim only contract to a monthly pay for a two year period. What they did not explain was that the two year contract could be increased unilaterally. This I find totally unreasonable and I complained a number of times but Orange are adamant that the price hike is totally legal and they refuse to budge. The also refuse to release me from my contract.

28 December 2011

ALL check your contracts for the details, orange connections seem a bit hit & miss EG my Fonesforu 18 month upgrade says i’m in contract for 18 months but at price £0.00 , further down form it re confirms my monthly cost to be £0.00, range Orange Customer Relations mentioned this & how If they held me to contract that a court of law would Most Probably agree that I am in contract but only to pay £0.00 per month said would prefer a make amends discount rather than early contract end & after a while on hold whilst various managers in call centre pondered the error so then got £5 a month off my package which more than covers the increase , On a similar note Wives 24 month Chelmsford Orange Store upgrade has no t&c’s on reverse & instead is titled Customer Information Form Orange Enable Registrations , there is “Important by registering phone bound by t&c’s which I have been provided with & agree to be bound by then, Never was supplied them, So to all Mobile Phone Connection Points I say stock up on your stationary as Many more people will want to actually get all the paperwork, who knows maybe a industry jobs boom as people take longer in store Making Sure ORANGE Or anyone else isn’t tricking them by non provided small print or heiiden terms that are not highlighted.

DavidF says:
28 December 2011

Leo is, of course, correct that Orange are totally unreasonable. And Orange may also be correct that their price hike is legal – although whether it complies with OFCOM guidelines is another matter entirely, and one which OFCOM have so far failed dismally to investigate. But can Orange refuse to release affected customers from their contracts? According to section 4.3.1 of their contract, only if they “have increased the Charges by an amount equal to or less than the percentage increase in the All Items Index of Retail Prices published by the Central Statistical Office in the Monthly Digest of Statistics in any 12 month period”. And the Central Statistical Office ceased to exist sometime in 1996! So, in my entirely amateur opinion, they have no legal or contactual basis for refusal.

If mounting a legal challenge anyone, would love to
read any documents filed in Court, in particular
‘Particulars of Claim’ AND ‘Defence and Counterclaim’
as to first only or both of latter( if it came to that).

Can leave out your ID if you wish.

This shows that many customers are hacked off not only with the price increase, but also Orange customer service too. It is also a shame that Ofcom are unable to pursue this matter any further and seem they have washed their hands with regard to this case. As expressed by many customers, they will not be renewing their contracts. Lets hope the corporate Orange customers reconsider their contracts at renewal time.
on another note a big thanks to Which Mobile, just signed up with one the Best Bye mobile providers, it’s with a supermarket 🙂 250 mins, 5000 texts, 500MB, and a grt phone too! etc.

Catherine says:
4 January 2012

I am so disgusted with Orange and their underhand/dishonest treatment of their customers. I have recently become aware they have taken away the “premier service” which I have enjoyed for over 5 years. No explanation or warning. I realized I had no customer service any more when I attempted to resolve a complaint relating to poor signal for the best part of December!!! this matter is still unresolved, I have been told Premier does not exist any more even though a recorded voice welcomes me to premier !!!!! I feel hustled…so let down. I have been a customer with Orange for over 10 years and thought they had exceptional call centres customer service …not any more …..I hve been advised that if I wish to complain I need to write to a PO Box?? I intend to let everyone know not to go any where near Orange find another provider ..any recommendations out there?

Tabster says:
4 January 2012

Catherine – I’ve been told more than once by Orange, including an Operations Manager, that the only way to formally complain is to go through their escalation process via the 150 number.
I have said I don’t think this has been made clear and have even complained about their complaints procedure not being obvious.
Even their official compliants procedure pdf doesn’t make this clear.
Everything about Orange has failed me over recent weeks.

1bossman says:
18 May 2012

I thoroughly agree with you i at the moment have a costly ongoing legal battle against this bitter tasting orange over full charges monthly for a virtually non existing signal and no help or consideration given by this greedy crooked con artists. They even renewed my contract after i expressly specified by phone and letters they denied any knowledge plus there were so many other problems i have had with them. I am currently now trying to recruit all past and present customers of these con artists to join in a campaign to make them refund all the money they have charged people under false pretences mostly under the “SUPPLY AND SERVICES ACT”, also to get the laws changed to give customers more protection and some one to fight our corner against these criminals With full power to penalise them. I want to also get changes made to this hideous contract time period, it should be outlawed. Orange should be banned from trading.

Adew says:
5 January 2012

Thought some might like to read a interview given to the telegraph by Olaf swantee the CEO of everything everywhere ( stupid name). When he took over from Tom alexander.


The interesting part is when asked the difference between t modile and orange. Both EE brands he states. “The Orange customers want a predictable amount paid every month.” What a hypocrite. I signed up to orange for 24 months being assured that my tariff would stay the same for 24 months
Vote with you feet and then maybe he will know what it feels like to loose his job.

[Hello Adew, we have edited your comment due to libel reasons. Thanks, mods.]

Paul Godfrey says:
10 January 2012

Dear Everything Everywhere,

How do I get it through to Orange, how angry that I am?
I confirm that I am never, ever, going to have an Orange phone again after this.

Since Orange treats customers like doormats I will cancel as soon as I can then. I will use my remaining call time to tell anybody I can to watch out for unexpected and unfair price rises on Orange.


I will now raise a formal complaint with OfCom. I was not told when taking out the contract that the price could go up by the rate of inflation any time during the contract. I was told £20 a month for 2 years. Not £20 for a few months and £21 for a few more, and who knows £22 or £23 after that.

We have been in contact with Ofcom in an attempt to get some clarity on the action those of you affected by this rise can take. They have sent us the following statement. It is not great news I am afraid. They will not be taking complaints against Orange any further and advise customers to complain to Orange about the rises and if this fails CISAS:

“Ofcom has considered the complaints it has received about the recent rise in Orange’s prices and acknowledges that many consumers feel unhappy with these changes.
However, having assessed the complaints against the relevant consumer legislation, Ofcom has decided, on the evidence available, not to proceed with an investigation at this time as this price rise is not likely to be a breach of current legislation.
Whilst we do not believe that there is a case for us to investigate this general matter, whether or not individual consumers suffer material detriment will depend on the individual circumstances in each case, and customers can still contact Orange if they think they have or will suffer material detriment and be prepared to provide evidence to support their claim. Further, where a customer has concerns that Orange has not met its terms and conditions the relevant dispute resolution body, CISAS, may be able to consider this.”

With ofcom’s response in mind, may I draw Which? attention to the following statement (apologies for names and weblink, but I feel it’s justified in this case);

Andrea Coscelli, Claudio Pollack, May 20, 2011 (Claudio Pollack is the group director, consumer group at ofcom)
The report is titled, “Ofcom’s Approach and Priorities for Consumer Protection & Empowerment”
What is the role of consumer policy?
What do we mean by consumer protection and empowerment?
What issues have given rise to concerns in our recent experience?
What tools do we have to improve consumer outcomes, taking account of the impact of market mechanisms and the role of incentives?
What is the evidence of the effectiveness of our approach to date?

We also briefly discuss our proposed intervention against the sale of automatically renewable contracts to purchasers of fixed voice and fixed broadband services. Our protection and empowerment work complements our competition work as it addresses areas where markets without dominant providers are not functioning perfectly for consumers in terms of their ability to compare and switch providers easily as well as to negotiate, understand, and enforce contracts.
As the OFT states “markets work well when there are efficient interactions on both the demand (consumer) and supply (firm) side. On the demand side, confident consumers activate competition by making well-informed and well-reasoned decisions which reward those firms which best satisfy their needs.”
In addition to our powers using regulations and our work with industry, we also discuss the scope for incorporating greater use of comparative information and behavioral economics to improve market outcomes and reduce consumer harm.
(source: https://www.competitionpolicyinternational.com/ofcom-s-approach-and-priorities-for-consumer-protection-empowerment/)

I have highlighted inconsistancies that customers of orange need to have answered.
In light of not one single report here of an orange customer being informed of any possible price rise clause, prior to sale, how does this fit with a customer’s ability to, “negotiate, understand, and enforce contracts”?
How can orange customers, “activate competition by making well-informed and well-reasoned decisions” if orange are selling contracts without prior notification at the point of sale of a price rise clause?
“behavioral economics to improve market outcomes and reduce consumer harm.” What could be more harmful to orange customers than selling a contract at one price, then using a small print clause that wasn’t pointed out to the customer at the point of sale, to increase the cost of said contract?
Not giving a customer correct advanced notice in writing?
Not giving a customer the option to decline the new higher price and terminate their contract?
Charging a customer fees to buy themselves out of their contract, which does not reflect actual loss?

It appears that ofcom and the OFT are all talk and no action.

12 January 2012

maybe we should be bugging our Mp’s with emails stating our disgust at lack of Consumer Assistance from Ofcom,

Charlotte says:
8 February 2012

What rubbish news! Once again, the customer is let down by Orange and Ofcom..! We waiver all rights when signing any contract it seems! I am a graduate, unemployed and can not afford to pay my Orange bill or the price hikes any more! They over charge every month claiming I have gone over minutes, but I am SURE I NEVER do! I have cancelled my contract with them and have gone with o2 (MUCH better service, staff, knowledge etc…) although, I now have to pay £126.00 to have terminated the Orange contract, a price which I can’t afford at this moment in time! I SOOOO begrudge having to pay them anything extra. Any advice?

Because you’ve entered into a legally-binding contract,
you’re therefore governed by the T&Cs appertaining to
both contracting parties as to the rights, obligations
and liabilities arising therefrom.

A person is said to waive a benefit when he renounces or
disclaims it and he cannot waive something if he does not
have it in the first place.

Why not see if Orange will actually take you to Court in
respect of a refusal to pay? A good chance they won’t.

Personally I wd pay, if need be, over a period of time
to be agreed.

Good luck

Tom Forth says:
8 February 2012

My advice is to go my site at http://www.tomforth.co.uk/orange and contact me via the email address there. I’ll be happy to help you take this to court, in fact I can probably even take the £30 risk just to finally get a clear answer on this. I can’t go to court myself as I do not have an Orange contract.


Worth thinking abt especially when there’s a McKenzie friend to help.

Because there are (important) arguable points of law and fact, case need
not necessarily be allocated to the small claims track.

On allocation to another track, bear in mind there may well be adverse
costs consequences in the event of losing but being unemployed you
generally shd not be too concerned abt that but the Court has
wide discretion in the award of costs against losing party

[NB: 2012 and 2013 will be years of great change for civil litigation
in England and Wales].

All best

Tony says:
16 May 2012

Insist on it being referred to CISAS, Orange will tell you you can’t but under your T & C you have the right
Prove the material detriment as mentioned by OFCOM
Insist on transcripts of all comms with them as there will be a recording of the sale of the contarct where Orange probably told you this would be your minimum monthly payment for the duration of the contaract, this represents miss-selling
Orange will probably ignore your request for trancripts but they will then be in breach of the T & C as it states you are entitle to have them, albeit for a small fee
Whatever happens don’t pay them and encourage as many people to leave them as possible

Super Dan says:
2 March 2012

Orange have no right to do this, everyone i know has walked away and ignoring them, we think Orange have there lawyer or social media manager commenting on social forums like this to make the public believe they can do it. They had to put there prices up because of inflation they say, but the other companys have exactly the same packages and they didnt have to put there prices up. But then again they didnt sponsor the African cup and film awards, Orange using british peoples money to invest in the rest of world, absolute disgrace, everyone should walk away, its racism lol WALK AWAY

David says:
13 March 2012

I feel that the 4.34% increase figure quoted by Orange to be disingenuous, yes this is the figure based on the total contract, but circa £25 of my £35 contract must have been to buy the phone, surely they are not looking to retrospectively charge more for the phone?
I calculate that based on monthly service charges the increase is nearer to 15%.
People should vote by not renewing with Orange, lets hope peoples memories dont let them down.

simon ling says:
1 July 2012

i hate orange and everything they stand for they haver ruined my buisness by cutting me off i have had my number for 23 years and its established i am on a £35 per month contract then every 2 or 3 months they will hit me with a huge bill for 5 and 6 hundred pounds saying im as heavy internet user i never use it only texts and incoming calls when i ring up i get arrogant rude idiots who talk down to me like im a fool .. so now i had to go and get a pay as you go sim and all this time im losing money i dont know where to turn then i find that the cisas are part of orange who i was dumped on by ofcom so what chance do we stand they are legal theifs and they know it if anyone out there is trying to do something please let me know im in

Husnain Tariq says:
12 July 2012

Hi People,

I was just reading other pepole comments, He said they are really legal THIEFS.

I checked my bill £222.42 and said i over used 900 minutes, i dnt think, i used these more than 900 minutes and one of my friend he is with THREE, he said, i can move THREE theni can put the cap on my bill then i cant go up my limit. ( If it is true, it ie really worthy)

I made a compaint abt this issue, lets see, wots gonna happen.

ANY suggestion, wot else i can do to reduce my bill?

We play them at their own game. We have been with Orange since they were Hutchinson (a long time ago!) There have been many occasions when we have thought of leaving. However, when contacting them at the end of the contract we hit the “I’m thinking of leaving” button. We are then offered renewal at a much enhanced rate …….. works every time.

BabaOsw says:
1 August 2012

despite going through Orange complaints proceedure via email (as they frequently block the mobile numbers), I have discovered that Orange Customer Service Email address has been ‘down’ for at least TEN WEEKS to date! I cant call them as theyve blocked the (four) mobile numbers. Ironic it has taken them Eight weeks to do nothing with their Broadband Service too. Is there financial issue attached with Orange??? Theyve been trying to sell-out for almost a year now – its ironic there service in this time has gone from okayish to disgraceful in this period???

Phil says:
26 October 2012

have been with orange for 16 years with the promise of free broadband for as long as i continued to stay with orange mobile.
Now when you renew your contract expect to get a letter. You will now only get free broadband if you change your home phone line to orange and the line rental is £14.00 without any phone calls.
If this is the new word of orange I advise changing before your new contract begins

Hello Orange customers – it’s a year since Orange announced it’s price rise on your fixed contracts. In that time we estimate £41m has collectively been added to your mobile bills. We’ve put together an infographic to illustrate just what £41m looks like: http://www.which.co.uk/orange

For example, you could fill 2,842 bathtubs with Dom Perignon champagne or call America for 98 years non-stop from an Orange mobile phone.

We’re still working hard to stop these price rises, and will be pushing Ofcom hard to start its consultation into unfair price rises on fixed contracts.