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World Consumer Rights Day and your mobile phone rights

Happy flying mobile phone cartoon

Today is World Consumer Rights Day and our friends at Consumers International are using the opportunity to focus on your mobile rights. Time then, I thought, for an update on our Fixed Means Fixed campaign.

To mark this year’s World Consumer Rights Day, Consumers International has launched a new Consumer Agenda for Fair Mobile Services with the goal of highlighting the problems people have with mobiles around the globe.

We’ve been working to improve your mobile phone rights here in the UK, with our Fixed Means Fixed campaign and its 60,000 supporters convincing Ofcom to take action.

Ofcom’s new rules, designed to prevent companies from hiking prices during fixed contracts, came into effect earlier this year. You’ll remember that, to our great disappointment, O2 decided to go against the spirit of those rules by writing yearly price rises into its customers’ contracts. Nearly 8,000 of you joined us in asking O2’s CEO not to go ahead with their plans, but it seems they’re set to continue on that course.

O2 ad complaint

Last month we complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about an O2 ad which claimed customers could get a £14 a month fixed mobile contract, despite the price only applying for one month of a two-year contract.

The small print of the advert, published last month, states that prices will rise by the rate of inflation in March 2014 and again in April 2015. This would mean a customer signing up last month will only pay £14 for one month before a price rise. We thought that was outrageous – you shouldn’t have to scrutinise the small print to know whether you’re getting a good deal. We’re currently awaiting the ASA’s response to our complaint and we’ll keep you updated.

Your phone rights

While O2 isn’t acting the spirit of Ofcom’s guidance, we’re pleased that others have committed to contracts where the price is fixed for the duration or else you can exit without penalty. Three’s even promised not to hike prices at all mid-contract.

We’ll continue to keep an eye on all of the mobile phone providers to make sure they commit to fixed price contracts. Oh, and stay tuned for more work from us to improve your mobile phone rights…

In the meantime, Which? and Consumers International want to hear from you – what makes you mad about mobile phone services? Comment below or join in on Twitter by using #PhoneRights or the amusingly long hashtag #MyPhoneMakesMeMadBecause.

37 Buck says:
15 March 2014

I would like you to look in to Persil non- bio capsules, I purchased this specially for my Husbands washing as he had some garments which had to be non- bio. I read the main large dark print instructions as to use., but the small print I could not read . so washed silk & wool ,with this product the silk came out with a bit of plastic ( off capsule ) stuck to the silk ,was able to remove it with out any damage. my husbands £80 jumper was ruined as the plastic from the capsule stuck to it . my first reaction was O! Help I must have picked up a piece of plastic off the floor as I had sorted washing in to piles on the floor. So second Wash was same problem on a different part of the jumper the original plastic had moved plus more from the second capsule !
I got a magnifying glass to read instructions & O! My ! No wool or silk to be washed with this liquid ! Do not remove from capsule was in main instructions along with put it in 1st . Do I have any rights
if I go after Persil /Unilever UK .Ltd .


Hi 37 Buck, sorry for the delay in responding. If it’s in the instructions, then I’m afraid you don’t have rights against Persil. You could contact them and ask them to increase the text size of their instructions, explain the problem you had and hope for a good will gesture. We’ll be testing liquid capsules again next year so will keep this in mind.


The Fixed Means Fixed campaign does not appear to have had a good outcome at all. O2 are not the only ones that are still not playing fair, and Ofcom are (as usual) siding with the operators not with the consumers, especially as the ‘clarified’ rules have not been applied to existing contracts.

In particular, EE have recently announced a change to their terms and conditions that allows them to increase prices by RPI instead of the lower of CPI and RPI, without giving the customer the right to penalty-free cancellation. They maintain that “this change is of benefit to customers”, and not to their detriment(!!)

Many have argued with them that the only fair change to the terms and conditions (in light of Ofcom’s recent guidance) would be to allow penalty-free cancellation should any price rise be proposed. Ofcom are fully aware of EE’s behaviour but apparently disagree that EE should be subject to either the guidance, Ofcom’s general conditions (in particular condition 9.6), the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1994, or even EE’s own terms and conditions.

Also, I am not aware that Which have reported EE’s recent behaviour anywhere. In any case, it is clear that consumers are still unable to exercise their statutory rights without going to court, and that the Fixed Means Fixed campaign has so fair failed miserably, with Ofcom and the phone companies continuing to act against consumer interests.


I think the problem with the Fixed means fixed campaign was that wasn’t what you went for. You let the public vote for let me get out for free if they hike prices. Yet still retained the name of the campaign which is very misleading. Especially for a consumer focused organisation.

I’d have to rate that campaign as a failure.

Maybe its time for a proper fixed means fixed campaign. After all, in the English language fixed doesn’t mean variable which it still means for phone contracts.


Too right, William. There might be a very good reason for staying with a particular provider while having the benefit of a fixed-price contract [network coverage is but one that springs to mind].


Network coverage is a good reason for not switching to a different provider, but we should be pushing for the companies to share networks to provide all users with the best possible coverage. This is already done for emergency calls.


A simple solution would be require companies to call these contracts VARIABLE PRICE CONTRACTS. Those companies that are prepared to offer a fixed price for the duration of the contract would soon take business away from those that raise their prices.

stephen says:
19 March 2014

I was with 3mobile fixed contract came to an end so gave them 30 days notice to quit. About 2 weeks later found another phone supplier and decided to take my old number with me. 3 told me that I have to give them a further 30 days notice to close this account and I will have to pay another monthly instalment for a phone that I cant use as soon as I use the pac code to transfer my old number the line is disconnected. I have filled out 3 on line complaints form and they have ignored every one of them. I think this is a unfair terms and condition but 3mobile wont even answer my emails?

Thomas says:
12 April 2014

To me there is a much simpler solution. The giffgaff network runs on a month to month basis so if you don’t like it for whatever reason, you can just leave. But from my experience, you won’t want to. I get 250 minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited data for £12 a months