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