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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.’

MrXavia says:
19 October 2012

What I find funny is that when I took out a monthly plan with three through a CPW store, they pointed out that the rate could change, BUT when I took out a 2 year contract on the phone with three shortly after they neglected to tell me that important detail on the phone… BUT I don’t care! why? because I got a good deal and while I know the Customer Service is rubbish, their network is the ONLY network with good internet speeds I have used, even if their coverage is a bit p**s poor out in the sticks…

So for me, I got a good phone, on a good deal, when I wanted it, and i get unlimited internet, something no other provider gives!
I can teather my laptop and download a 3gb film in a couple of hours, try that with Vodafone/O2/EE!

So yes Three are wrong doing it, but they are not THAT bad a network to deal with!

That’s pretty much where I stand with 3 – I was determined to leave them when my contract was up, but their deals are unbeatable so I ended up staying. Hopefully I won’t regret it.

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21 October 2012

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derek c says:
21 October 2012

i recently terminated my contract with three mobile. it expired on the 23 sept, so i gave them the 30 day notice on the 31st august. i pay in advance and never exceed my contacted minutes. so after i gave notice they took payment out of my account on the 20 augest. i sent them email saying this was the last payment and cancelled my direct order shortly after. now i got a letter saying they want another months rental, this does not make sense, has anyone had this problem when termonating a contract.

What was the actual period (start date and end date) for line rental on the invoice for which they took payment on 20 August? By giving 30 days notice on 31st August, you are liable to line rental up to the 30th September (the fact that your contract ends on 23rd September is irrelevant). Have you already been billed for the full period up to 30 September? And did you mean 20th September rather than 20th August?

pete cuffe says:
11 May 2013

yes , there taking me to court for £10.86 for the 25th month of my contract , after i cancelled twice by phone and once by e-mail, its very hard to cancel with them, bunch of thieves, and have now put my daughters contract up aswell, i thought it was fixed rate.

David heath says:
21 October 2012

It sounds a lot like incompentant staff. Stand your ground, and complain to management. Why should you pay it?!

I have had very serious problems due to their failure to cancel 2 contracts. I would always record any conversations with 3, they will say one thing and do whatever is easiest in my experience.

Pugilist says:
23 February 2013

My understanding is that in English Common Law if a company wishes to include an onerous term in the contract then by law they must make the term prominent to the customer by for example pointing out the term at point of sale and printing it in red with a red hand pointing to it.
Clearly the mobile phone companies have not done so and as such the onerous term is unenforceable in Law; in law the relevant facts are:
It is an unfair term
It is an onerous term
It was not brought to my attention when I took out the contract It is such an unfair and onerous term that the only way it could possibly be enforceable is if it had been brought to my attention and highlighted in red ink.

When I ask to cancel my contract O2 state that I must pay £310 cancellation fee. In contract Law that amounts to “Duress”, you are being forced to pay without any option.
In response to Kevin who states that he has been paying his bills monthly in advance and is not being demanded to pay a final month, this is standard practice in the industry, they think customers will have forgotten the paid the first month in advance and will not notice when they are billed a final month.

I for one am not going to stand for this; I intend to issue my service provider with a Court Summons to question the legality of these onerous terms which were never highlighted to me at the point of sale. I believe I have a very good chance of winning the case as English Law, The Consumer Protection Act and the Unfair Terms Act are all in my favor.

If I win then the mobile companies stand to lose £100’s of millions, they cannot afford for that to happen so they will need to defend the matter at great legal expense. By keeping the matter in the small claims court even if I lose they cannot recover costs from me.

I hate the way service providers use threatening and bullying tactics threatening to destroy your credit rating, threatening Court action, threatening bailiffs and so on. It is time someone preempts all these threats, stands up and take the threat to them.

I’m s Glaswegian, someone threatens me can expect a Glesga kiss 🙂

Mike Byrne says:
8 April 2013

The Galsgow kiss is definitely a recommendation I would subscribe for T Mobile. Excellent points you raise, I agree, phone companies are using bully boy tactics, they could do with a couple of hundred million pounds haircut to put them straight and give customers the contracts they entered into, not this ridiculous; section U subsection R, paragraph bend-over, sentence, shafted! Please OFCOM, grow a big pair and fine the hell out of these sneaky boys, their arrogance is astonishing, the only language is to give them a nice big fine that hurts, not £5m, £19M or £20m, lets say, 10% of turnover since this clause has been in existence, IF, they do not voluntarily, rescind this practise and be fair!

They still need a Glasgow kiss

Excellent post

sunjay says:
24 February 2013

Even thou three network has been treating it customers like dirt during these prices rises and we seem to have kick them where it hurts with all this publicity.

Thing are now starting to happen with the data speed, I am now experience average download speed of 12 – 15 meg here at London, that faster than most customers on EE 4g are getting at the moment when they are paying premium prices for capped usage. Yes with the hurt three has cause during the summer with this price rise, I have now decide to stay with them when my contract finishes and move on to a much cheap sim-only tariff on a monthly rolling contract, three has also confirmed that 4G LTE will this will be included in our current tariff at no extra cost if you already have the LTE ready phone e.g Iphone 5. For me I just don’t see the point of moving to another network. All you can eat data, superfast 3g now, 4G LTE at no extra cost from Sept 2013, no other network can offer this.

We gave three network a really good hiding last year and now things may be turning around in our favour 🙂


They are all at it, I have just had an increase letter from Orange saying my insurance is going up .
I have only couple of months left so I am going to pay it and leave as soon as contract is up.
I am using giff gaff unlimited interent and texts plus 400 mins talk time £15 per months saving me £41 since last September. And that will be that same on the other phone we have on contract with Orange.
£1344 over 2 years paid to orange on 1 phone
so £2644 for the 2 phones
my new costs £360 x 2 = £720
£1924 I will save per 2 years, think about that? you could buy top of the range phone on credit card and still save money, so thank you Orange for giving me a wake up call last year.

Fixed price should be fixed price


Well, I’ve still not been chased after leaving last year. My credit report remains unblemished, no news from Three ordebt collection agencies. Nothing at all.

Account is marked as settled, with £0 ooutstanding, after more than half a year.

Anyone been hounded? Or have positive news?

Are Which? still suggesting payment under protest? 😉

richard says:
25 February 2013

I had two accounts with Three which I cancelled. My experience was different in that they were hounding me constantly for 3 or 4 months even though my credit record was marked as settled with £0 outstanding almost immediately.
To be honest I quite enjoyed the banter, had arguments, wouldn’t give my security answers, asked them for their dates of birth, told them their call was imortant to me and put the phone next to a radio etc etc. The accounts were eventually referred to Westcott an outside debt recovery agency, who I started to have some fun with but soon realised that they were actually quite professional. (I don’t know why they are doing business with Three). I sent them a copy of the correspondence including the original iphone contract with Three before they attampted to change it retrospectively. Westcott agreed that there was no debt to collect and sent in back to Three and I haven’t heard anything since!
Sunjay, personally I wouldn’t deal with a company who have behaved as abominably as Three. They started by lying, then bullying just because they hadn’t drafted their contracts correctly!
Ofcom are obviously also in their pocket and and have been as much use as a chocolate fireguard. What are they there for if it isn’t to protect consumers against fraudulent (yes, changing a contract after the event is fraud) conduct by one of the firms they regulate. It certainly wasn’t to run the 4G licence process properly where they achieved £1 billion less than expected. I would disband them and spend the money on something more useful.


I totally agree with you, I myself am about to come to the end of one of my contracts with Three, and after the way they operated last year, I will definitely not be renewing with them in any way (my second contract with them also runs out in a few months time and I won’t be renewing that with them either).

And it’s disappointing to hear the “Sunjay” story above as it certainly doesn’t sound like the Sunjay I became familiar with last year, who seemed just as principled as the rest of us who disagreed so strongly with Three and their fraudulent actions (if it is indeed the “same” Sunjay that was so heavily involved in the original struggles at the beginning of this post, as genuine customers were actually being impersonated back then, by other “posters” who frankly I and others strongly suspected were actually Three employees on a “discrediting” rampage).

I will happily bid “goodbye to Three” and never look back now, especially after their terrible negativity toward genuine contract customers, and their unscrupulous actions to undermine even the process of feedback and comment surrounding this issue, even within the social networks such as Twitter.

And as for OFCOM and the Consumer Ombudsman… a complete waste of space, absolutely!


If you leave Three and sign up with another company it may not be long before you are back complaining that they have put their price up during the contract. How do you intend to ensure that this does not happen? I assure you that this is a serious question and I’m not intending to be provocative.

Hi Wavechange,

Another old face I hope I see… (?)

And no provocation understood I assure you and thank you for the question and the opportunity to answer it here.

I appreciate the dilemma that you outline, but having seen now, how this new “network market practice” of increasing contract fees on an annual basis has become the de facto standard for the future (as indeed we all suspected it would amongst the big players, once precedent was set), and sadly having no faith whatsoever in any of the supposed “consumer champion” organisations that I, and many others, naively believed would and could make a change rgarding this matter, I now do not plan to sign up with any of the major players for any kind of contract whatsoever in the future.

I “may” purchase a PAYG sim from one of the smaller or subsidiary operators such as GIFFGAFF or one of the supermarket chains, who yes I am aware use bandwidth from the mainstream players, but as my own needs are modest now it is not an absolute requirement for me any longer, although I appreciate that not everyone is in that fortunate position.

My voiced concern regarding anyone who was genuinely involved in particular with Three’s scandalous dealings last year, now even considering giving them any further business whatsoever (despite the fact that most of the major players jumped on the price increase bandwagon in the end), is one of major principle. Especially so when having seen and experienced at first hand just what Three were prepared to do, quite literally across the board, to prevent their customers from having any real voice against their policies and practices, should those same customers choose to speak out against them or achieve some real justice regarding their fraudulent practices, including the amending of online contracts, as mentioned above by Richard.

Have people forgotten so easily the ignorance and rebuke demonstrated on their behalf by their staff, during the many phone conversations that ensued with frustrated contract customers? The repeated dismissal of a hearing by their Head Office staff when attempting to escalate the matter because phone staff refused to do so? The repeated shifting of goal posts on an ad hoc basis as they responded in real time by openly monitoring negative online responses and activity (such as even the comments on this very post itself), when determining how and when to attempt to switch the wording, applicability and online availability of contractual agreements in an effort to cover themselves, and the poor phraseology of said contracts? Corrupting the flow of posts and comment, both here and elsewhere, by impersonating the identity of genuine posters such as myself and others? Sending staff online to openly rebuke and pursue those like myself who were genuinely attempting to raise the profile of the issues at hand within online forums and elsewhere? The list goes ever on…

So although I understand everyone must make up their own mind on these matters, I for one could never deal with a company like that again I am afraid, no matter how personally advantageous it may now appear.

Integrity has a place in everything, but especially in business, and if companies like Three see no real diminishing of profit through loss of custom as a result of adopting such practices as I have outlined above, then what message does that send out both to them and to similar companies?

I think we all know the answer…

And when these companies respond by simply abusing their power and their customer base yet again, whenever it should suit them… then whose “responsibility” will that then be?


Or ours?

Society is made up of individuals making choices and performing actions… and it is always the sum of the choices and actions of each and every individual, that ultimately effect and determine the outcomes in society and in business.

So in the future, when companies like Three decide, on a whim, to suddenly modify their contractual offering to your detriment, and with no regard whatsoever for the opinions of you or the rest of their customer base, don’t express alarm.

Because if you have continued to patronise them with your personal business, then you are the very reason why they are still in the market, and as consequence are still able to do so.

If you choose to dance with the devil then I have no doubt that at some point, you shall indeed receive your just reward.

The choice as they say… as always… is forever… ours.

Thanks for that, Sean. I have never had a contract phone and my interest is because I don’t like to see unfair treatment of consumers, particularly where a small number of companies control the market. For me, the biggest disappointment was when O2 announced that they would join the other major players and increase prices during contracts. They had the opportunity to reject the practice and the possibility of gaining many customers who have been treated badly by other companies.

Unless this battle is won, how long will it be before the practice spreads to other products? I signed up to a two year contract for my phone and broadband and each time I see the bill I am grateful that the price has not changed. In fact the only change has been to increase the amount of data I can download.

In the case of mobile phones, the companies have managed to make a fair proportion of the population very dependent on their services, and many who claim that they will leave may well not do so or may leave now and come back when they have been the victim of another service provider.

Sometimes I feel that Which? should devote more effort to fewer issues, but it must be a very difficult job to set priorities. I believe it is vital to get more people involved in consumer issues and to focus on battles that could be won easily and what most people see as serious issues. Here, Which? and other organisations do a good job in making us aware of these problems.

Interestingly, I boycotted T-Mobile when they took over from One2One over ten years ago and doubled the cost of making calls on my PAYG phone. I still have One2One credit on the phone I keep in the car for use in emergency.

I find it expensive to make daytime calls from my landline (or Vodafone PAYG mobile) to mobiles, and it might pay me to have a cheap contract. I have not done this because I object to the way that the companies are treating their customers.

Best of luck with the fight.

Sunjay says:
26 February 2013


No contract for me anymore, Buy the phone outright and go on a sim-only monthly contract.

Benny says:
27 February 2013

Hi guys just to let you know as a NOW PAST reseller for Three they have told me secretly they are going to increase prices again this year and are secretly hoping by April the cost of fuel will sore so inflation will be higher so they can CHARGE all of us more, not forgetting they will want to recover recent 4G bidding costs!
What will Which do, NOTHING just as before last year. I have told three to get stuffed so when they read this they will know who it is and I dont care 1 jot!



Very interesting Benny (although not surprising), thank you very much for the information.

simon says:
10 March 2013

Orange have done this to me twice on this so called “contract” I have been with them for over 15 years now but when my contract is up, Im off! cant believe the greed of this company to do this to a loyal customer!

Glen Rae says:
10 March 2013

I think you miss the point, its not about a good deal. Its about being conned.
Contract 2 year deal should remain same for contract term.

I left orange when contract expired on one phone and now pay £15 pm to Giff Gaff when I used to pay orange £56 pm. I could buy phone on credit card and still save money.

My second family phone contract expires June so will do the same and save money.
I hope orange customer service read this and weep

Jasmine Sharif says:
3 April 2013

Hi, help!
Can anyone advise? I am now stuck with two new 3 mobile contracts because I have let the 14 day cooling off period pass. I really didnt mean to do that but the wires got crossed between me and 3 on dates; no one told me they would be different for upgrade customers and new customers and that the cooling off would be calculated from order date not delivery date. I cant afford to keep three contracts with 3 going for 24 months and dont want to wind up in court for non payment. The irony is that I did call to cancel on the right day but was told I still had a few days left. They are now saying I didnt have those days. Uh?Is there anything at all I can do? I’ve put in a query to see if anything can be done and am getting a callback from 3 this week. But could anyone give me some advice in the meantime? Thanks from Jasmine.

I hate 3 says:
5 April 2013

I would expect nothing less from 3.

I suspect they told you that you had extra time left as the representative wouldn’t want to be the caller who failed to convince you to stay with them.

If they verbally extended your cooling off period, then that is exactly what they did. Hard for you to prove; as they didn’t put this in writing.

I would argue and argue. If the handsets are returned after 3 months; then you would have a problem if it’s a few days because THEY FAILED TO GIVE YOU AN RMA number when you originally called up; then, one could argue this was their failure not yours.

Do expect them to be AWKWARD! I returned handsets that I DIDN’T ORDER. they then continued to invoice me for the handsets claiming that i didn’t return them within the 7 days!!!! their highly stupid; representative insisted that i returned them outside of the cooling off period; because they were to stupid to accept (or care) that they were ordered with stolen details, by someone else, presumably hoping to intercept the package.

3 then continued to tell lies on my credit report for years. Seriously you shouldn’t deal with this company EVER. Cheap and NASTY…

Gaz says:
20 May 2013

When signing up to the a phone contract, the sale adviser goes over the plan and states you will be paying £35 for 24 month on your plan plus vat and calls. Therefore is that stating the contract is at a fix price plan or if not misselling a product

Plus VAT? Should always be quoted inclusive. Price could change legitimately if VAT rate changed.

VickiB says:
21 May 2013

My boyfriend rang yesterday to cancel his broadband dongle contract with Three which ended quite some time ago (this was purchased along with a new laptop on a 24 month contract). He was informed that he had been entered into a new 24 month contract without his knowledge or permission!
Are they allowed to do this?? They are telling him he either has to wait until Dec or pay £310 to cancel!
And along with all the rest, very poor, rude, obnoxious customer services.