/ 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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Comments
Guest
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.

Guest
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.

Guest
ANDY SUFFOLK says:
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.

Guest
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.

Guest

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.

Guest

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.

Guest
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?

Guest
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.