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Mobile phone prices up again – is Three your unlucky number?

Three Mobile has increased its prices by 3.6% for existing customer’s monthly plans following Orange and T-Mobile before it. For fear of bastardising Lionel Richie’s lyrics… ‘Three times a price rise’.

Anyone who signed up to Three before 8 March 2012 will be hit by the price hike from 16 July.

Mobile and mobile broadband customers will have to swallow a 3.6% price rise. On a £25 monthly plan that will be around 90p extra a month, or another £11 per year.

Only contract prices will change, with calls and data remaining at their current levels. Pay-as-you-go customers will also be unaffected. If you’re going to be affected, Three will contact you by text, email or letter between 21 May and 1 June to let you know. Three said of the price rise:

‘We know that increases are never welcome, so it’s not a decision we’ve taken lightly and we’re confident that your plan still represents excellent value for money.’

It’s all in the terms and conditions

It’s a case of deja-vu – Orange and T-Mobile have previously increased their own contract prices. Each time this has happened, their customers have come to Which? Convo to vent.

It’s understandable really – if you signed up to a contract, whether 12 or 18 months, your expectation would be that the £25 or so monthly price would stay static. Not so, mobile companies have a clause in their T&Cs that allows them to increase contract prices on a yearly basis as long as they’re under the rate of inflation (retail prices index).

And when we’ve questioned the regulator Ofcom on this, it has told us that the price rises are ‘not likely to be a breach of current legislation’.

But when we actually ask mobile customers whether they know prices can go up, 94% of 1,036 people voted in our poll that they didn’t realise their contracts weren’t at a fixed price.

It might be legal, but it’s not a line of fine print that many people are aware of. And when customers are told that they can’t cancel their contracts early without charge, the red mist starts to descend.

Make price rise terms clearer

The key is making the fact that prices can rise by inflation clearer to new customers, instead of hiding this clause in reams of terms and conditions. Our principal advocate Mark McLaren said:

‘On the one hand, it seems consumers’ expectation is that a mobile phone contract is a fixed price for a fixed term. On the other hand, mobile companies are able to increase prices by RPI during the term of the contract. This is a contradiction that can only be solved by either regulatory intervention or, at a minimum, better information to consumers at the point of sale.

‘That’s why we welcome the fact that Ofcom’s priorities for 2013 include “promoting effective choice for consumers by ensuring clear information on service, price and quality is available”.’

Are you a Three customer who will be hit by this price rise? How do you feel about it? Did you know that mobile contracts aren’t strictly at a fixed price?

[UPDATE 25/05/2012] – As you know, we’ve been talking to Three. Which? doesn’t think it’s fair to increase prices in this way without giving consumers the ability to cancel as a result of the price increase. We think that when you sign up to a fixed rate deal, that’s what you expect it to be. Fixed, for the period you agreed to.

We think that Three should recognise this and do the right thing by allowing those customers who can’t stomach this increase to cancel their deal without penalty.

A spokesperson for Three responded to us as follows:

‘Despite costs increasing in a number of areas within our business, we have not passed on an RPI level rise to our contract handset customers in the nine years we have been in operation. Increasing our prices for existing customers is a decision we have not taken lightly. We know that increases are never welcome and we have tried to do this in the fairest way possible for all of our customers. We are confident our plans continue to offer the best possible value for money.’


I was under the impression that auto-renewing Fixed Term contracts were not allowed now, BT used to have 12 month ones, and OFCOM stopped them. Either way, I suggest you ask them to provide evidence of your ‘explicit’ agreement to a new fixed term, else it is a standard 30 day (or other reasonable) notice as per their T&C’s.
and any ‘significant’ contract item not drawn to your attention (including warning at renewal time) is not a fair contract item and challengable.

But OFCOM requirement seems may only apply to Landline contracts


No, they are not allowed to do that. Ever!

Glen says:
21 May 2013

I think it is time that WHICH actually did something on our behalf.
This is a sign of the times, banking and oil sector all see us as fair game to con.

I was glad to get away from Orange and went on a simm only deal with Giff Gaff costs me £15 pm for 400 mins talk time and unlimited text and internet.

PP says:
21 May 2013

Agree WHICH etc need to sharpen their claws & attack unfair practices. This has become a vicious jungle.

VickiB says:
21 May 2013

Arther2 – Thank you very much.

We did think this & kept quoting it to them as 4.1 in their T&C’s but was still not getting anywhere. Was told someone would be calling back after us escalting the complaint……..
Also after this we then went to his on-line banking to see that they had charged him double the amount this month (@ £92.00) as he had gone over his allowance, without them notifying him.
Just worried after reading all the other complaints that we are not going to get anywhere with this.

I have also requested a call back from the Ombudsman to see what they suggest.

Did anything happen ?
despite their wall of no-change, didt hey manage to show where you had ‘agreed’ to the new contract ?

Michael Clinton says:
27 June 2013

I have signed a 2 year contract with 3 at £36 pm but they take £45 I ask why and they said it was because if vat , but that was not so as they could not give me a 1 year deal @£42 pm as if would be over my credit allowance I am really loaf on this as they now want £850 to cancel contract is this legal??

PP says:
27 June 2013

3 terrible company. Anyone have anything good to day about them. Incompetent people at Indian call centres

@Micheal Clinton.

If 36pm was without VAT, it would be 36+7.2 = 43.20
and only business contracts are (confusingly) quoted without VAT.

What does however happen (and is sharp practice) is
the account anniversary (the day you sign), and the billing (the monthly charge) are not the same, For reasons unknown to man or beast (but obviously a marketing trick), mobile billing anniversaries are a few days later than when you sign. So
(a) the 1st payment is a few days larger than th enormal montly payment
(b) the last month of the contract collects a few days extra money in advance – even if you do cancel 30 days before the ‘contract’ (not billing) end
In effect you remember the billing end. not the contract end date

And yes, once into your contract, you are committed to it – it is your promise,
Unless there are get out clauses in there.
Part of the (24 months * 36) = 864 less any payments made
is for the ‘free’ phone not just the airtime.

If you look at O2, their new Refresh deal is now explicitly seperating the costs of the 24 months Airtime (like SIM only) from the 24 months Phone HP cost, and lets you add new 24 month payments to the plan early, OR better stop paying for the phone at the end of the 24 months (usually a network charges you the same or even increases it ! – even though you have now paid for the phone).

My 24-month contract with 3 ended in June, so I’ve paid for the phone I got with it; has the price gone down? No!
I had someone from Utility Warehouse come to see me on Wednesday and I’m switching to them. I phoned 3 to cancel my contract and to cut a long story short their final offer was £9/month. I refused it. If you get a phone on a contract from UW as soon as the contract ends the phone is paid for and they reduce the cost accordingly, as it should be. Another benefit is the helpdesk is in the UK so I’ll actually be able to speak to someone who I can understand and who understands me.
I’m also switching my home phone and broadband to UW. I’m currently paying O2 £48/month for their service, I can get the same from UW for half that. O2 has been taken over by Sky so I didn’t want to stay with them anyway.
And I’m switching to their gas and electric. It may be a bit more expensive than my Scottish Power tariff but as I’m gaining on everything else I think that it’s a price worth paying. The cancellation charge of £50 will be paid by UW.
I’ve also cancelled my wife’s contract with 3. The cancellation charge is £55 but UW will pay that to.

I think all the main companies are guilty of this, they should automatically switch you to a “Sim-only” deal when the contract ends but they rely on customer inertia to keep taking the money. You either have to switch yourself or take out a new contact with a spanking new phone.

So let’s get this straight…

Your whole argument here in total support of UW is about 3 and O2 and Sky and how much money you can save by switching the services they currently provide to you to UW instead. And your whole reason for doing so it is clearly stated is because you WANT to save money…. so there is no confusion that SAVING MONEY is your motivating factor and the reason why you are angry/unhappy at those other companies

But then, you are prepared to switch your gas and electric to UW too JUST because they are being so kind to you saving you money on those other phone and broadband services, EVEN THOUGH your gas and electric by placing them with UW are going to cost you MORE, which completely flies in the face of your previous supporting argument and any reasoning why anyone would care to switch those services at all if their current supplier is cheaper! People switch fas and electric to save money.. and ONLY to save money as there is no advantage otherwise in doing so!

And next I am sure you are going to suggest that you are in NO WAY allied to UW:s pyramidal sales structure?

Pull the other one… and next time tell a more convincing story…

For anyone else reading this… check out UW’s pyramidal sales strategies for yourself via google… they just LOVE their “adherents” posting this kind of rubbish to “reel” new uninformed customers into the fold.

I wondered why someone could have given me a thumbs down for my comment and I can see why now. That’s quite a vitriolic diatribe! Adherant eh, you make it sound like a cult. Moonie?

I’ll clarify what I said about my energy costs. My Dual Fuel deal with Scottish Power ended in January 2013, I’d been paying £63/month. I switched to their Online Fixed Price Energy April 2015 (No Standing Charge) and was paying £81/month. I’d made four payments of £81, but because I’d used more gas due to the cold spring they put the payments up to £117/month! Stupid or what, now the weather is warming up and I’m using hardly any gas I’m going to get into credit.

I gave the UW rep my energy usage figures for the last two years and I also phoned Scottish Power and got the figure for what I’d used this last year. I will be paying UW £97/month. So more than I started paying but less than I’m paying now.

You’ve obviously got a grudge against UW, that’s your prerogative. I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything, I’m just stating my case. I was on the phone to 3 for 25 minutes while they tried to persuade me to stay with them and another 18 minutes when I cancelled my wife’s contract. 3’s call centre is in India, half the time I can’t understand what they are saying. One operative told me that I’d have to pay an exit fee if I didn’t give 30 days’ notice, when I said ok I’m giving you 30 days’ notice from now, he told me I’d still have to pay an exit fee! I asked to speak to his supervisor who told me that he had got it wrong. They are incompetent.

It’s up to you whether you believe me or not, I couldn’t give a toss what you think, but I am not affiliated to UW. They have just happened to come along at the right time because; a) my contract with 3 has finished and b) I’ve been wanting to move away from O2 because of their prices and even more so now they have been taken over by Sky.

If I gain more benefit by moving all my utilities to UW then that suits me, that’s all I’m interested in, to reiterate, your opinion means nothing to me.

“And I’m switching to their gas and electric. It may be a bit more expensive than my Scottish Power tariff but as I’m gaining on everything else I think that it’s a price worth paying.”

But now you are actually saying that in fact it is NOT going to cost you more than Scottish Power… it is in fact going to cost you less… well then I can understand you moving to UW if it is in fact saving you money, even though yes I would never endorse them, and my comments re UW still stand,

If you had provided correct information in the first place, my response would have been different.

As for your opinion of my opinion… well…

Just take a minute to read what you wrote in your first response to my post and the aggressive manner of it. Perhaps if you didn’t adopt a hectoring tone you would receive a response more to your liking. Your second response is of a similar tone to your first. If you can’t take it, don’t dish it out.

I do apologise for not providing “correct information in the first place”. If I’d known that my post was going to be scrutinized for absolute accuracy I wouldn’t have bothered.

As the prices are calculated differently – UW have one unit rate whereas SP have two; UW have a standing charge, SP don’t – I don’t know if it’s going to be cheaper or not, there’s very little in it.

The monthly payment has gone down because my usage has been calculated over a different period. People don’t switch supplier purely on price; customer service comes into it too.

Hi all,

I had thought I’d seen the back of this. Maybe I have. However…

Today I received a text message from Three, first in a long time the content of which is as follows:-

“An update from Three http://mobile.three.co.uk/comms/GC14/aa

I can’t access the link because I no longer have an account with them. It appears it may be connected with an Of com investigation of Three regarding General Condition 14 (“GC14”) and trying, belatedly to comply with it in connection with my complaint(s), but I can’t be sure. I hope they aren’t trying to flog that old dead horse, but you never know with Three.

Anyhow, I can’t be the only who got this text. Anyone know what it’s about? Should I be concerned?

Jackie says:
26 March 2014

3 continue to harass me for a contract bill for a SIM card they say I have. They have quoted a telephone number they say is in my name and a bank sort code and account number they say has paid past bills. I asked them to ring the number and chase the person on the other end or investigate the bank account , which is not mine, but they are unable or unwilling to comprehend how easy it could be to follow through and get the person they really need. I have tried to speak to them but unless I can quote things from the contract, which I do not and have never ever requested, they will not deal with me. It appears because they have my name and address, sorry they call me Mr J C and I am a Mrs. No checks must have been made at the time to ensure the person starting the contract was who they said they were so now I have had to send a recorded delivery letter threatening or should I say promising legal action if they do not get their act together. God save us from idiots!!!!!!!

JohnH says:
6 May 2014

Orange offered a deal for broadband as i had mobile with them, they now say that unless i switch my line rental to them they are increasing my broadband charges by120% is this legal ? or is it once again a company being greedy and proving that a contract has no meaning to them.

Ethos Evoss says:
17 October 2014

4G speeds ?? hahah they calling 3Mbps download speed an 4G? ??
it is worse than 3G speeds !!! and when i try download something they WONT let me !!

[This comment has been edited to align with our community guidelines. Thanks, mods.]

Ron says:
9 June 2015

It looks if three have re introduced the RPI clause on new contracts & upgrades in the second year they will raise by it MAKE IT RIGHT THREE !!! IT SUCKS as your new advert says !

Kate says:
4 June 2017

What if they haven’t told you about it? I got my contract over the phone and have no recollection of them mentioning RPI. I have not received any communication via email/letter. Nothing. Yet they have put my bill up by 2.6%. Is this legal?

This comment was removed at the request of the user