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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

Diane Welford says:
27 November 2014

On Monday the 24th November 2014 I made the decision to stay on with o2 my mobile phone provider for the past 15…..yes that’s 15 years. My decision was based on an offer made to me whilst on the o2 chat online system. The offer was an Amazon fire phone with unlimited minutes and texts and 8g data, also included in the offer was a kits sound boom speaker and the opportunity to buy a kindle for £1with £79 worth of prime time. The Monthly payment would be £36. I asked the girl on the o2 chat if all this was correct and she said yes .I was happy as I thought I was finally getting something for my loyalty like a long service award for my 15 years. The girl said you can collect all this in the o2 store in the town where you live so I agreed. I drove into town to the o2 shop only to find after a half hour wait to be told this was not possible as they were not able to give out the same offers as online. I came back home and went back onto o2 chat where I remained for a good 4 hours. I was again told I could get this offer but would need to set up a direct debit first of £36 then I would be provided with a link to claim the kindle for £1.This I did but when it came to the link it would not allow me to progress, the girl then said oh no you’re supposed to click the link before the direct debit so now you cannot get the kindle. So I said where do I go from here and she said thanks for talking to o2 bye bye!!!! I then spoke to another o2 member of the chat team who apologised and said I would get everything I had been promised, not forgetting that every time you go on to o2 chat or phone you have to wait for ages and then go through all your details again and explain everything again. I was told to wait for the delivery of the phone and speaker and only then would they deal with the kindle mess. On Tuesday 25th November I was back on o2 chat trying to explain everything when another o2 member of staff said you can only get the kindle if your data is up to 5g and you only get the speaker if your data is 8g and mine was 8g but not both, sorry she said is there anything else? So I decided to call o2 and was told that everything would be sorted out and they would send me out a redemption code so I could claim the kindle I was offered, I was then told I would be transferred to Amazon who would do this for me but Amazon said no it lies with o2 and they are just passing the buck. Back home and onto o2 again for 3 hours this time, I was on chat, on the phone and on hold then transferred and then told by a member of o2 staff that they had spoken to their manager who would need 2 days to sort out a redemption code for me and it would be all sorted out. So I wait until today and call o2 giving all my details again and explaining the situation. I was told that the other staff should not have said I can have the kindle because I cannot. I said if this is a mistake then it is yours and I have fulfilled my part of the bargain by setting up the direct debit and I said I thought that o2 should honour the offer of the deal they first made on Monday,She said they could not and offered nothing by way of an apology. I said the reason I set up the direct debit was on the basis of their offer and thought maybe it was because I had been a long standing customer of 15 years. On Tuesday and today the 27th November I have said I will then cancel my direct debit and so will my husband and all the while they have been trying to fob me off hoping I will tire and stop contacting them. What amazes me is that if I worked in a particular store I could get 30% discount as a new customer but as a customer of 15 year I get nothing apart from appalling treatment. They have now offered me a further £2.40 off my monthly payment. What to do next??????????