/ Technology

Three Mobile price rises – what Three’s customers are saying

After over 550 comments, mainly from disappointed customers, our Conversation on Three Mobile’s price rise has been popular for all the wrong reasons. So what have you been saying about it?

If you haven’t been following, Three customers who signed up before 8 March 2012 will have to stomach a 3.6% price rise (in line with RPI inflation in March) from 16 July without the right to cancel. On a £25 monthly plan that’s around £11 more per year.

Three’s been contacting its customers by text, email or letter, and everyone should be aware of it by now. But people aren’t happy – and why should they be? They thought the price they signed up to was fixed, and although the increase might not be significant; it’s the principle of the thing.

Orange, T-Mobile… and now Three

It’s a problem that seems endemic among mobile companies, with Orange and T-Mobile doing the same. The simple fact is that their customers interpret a fixed contract as not only being for a fixed period, but as being at a fixed price for the length of the contract. Neil comments:

‘What’s annoying is I thought I agreed to a 24 month contract for a given price in exchange for given services. When (or if) I upgrade then I will decide to pay a different price or not. To have this change forced on me/us without any get out clause is very frustrating. We purchase goods/services for agreed period of times at agreed prices.’

Commenter Paul adds:

‘In an industry that relies so heavily on customer loyalty this smacks of betrayal and a bad business decision that will haunt Three for some time.’

Chris feels the same way and won’t be staying with Three when his contract is up:

‘As a previously loyal customer to Orange I am disgusted that Three have chosen to go down this route. I accept that on a two year contract I would expect to be paying slightly more than the best price plan twelve months later, but that is my choice, not theirs… not happy. Will not be renewing my contract!’

And that’s what most commenters are saying – they will vote with their feet and move on from Three when their contract is up. To paraphrase commenter C.A.: ‘Three rely on thee’.

Three: ‘A decision we have not taken lightly’

But what if the mobile provider you move on to puts its prices up in exactly the same way? At Which? we don’t think it’s fair to increase prices during a fixed contract without offering the option to cancel (without penalty).

We took this view to Three, but sadly it’s not budging:

‘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.’

Well, just like you, we’re not happy. Right now we’re exploring all the possible options to see what we can do. Not only do we want contracts to be clearer, we want the practice of companies putting prices up during fixed contracts to be stopped. But, as you can imagine, that’s going to take some time. Whatever the outcome, we want to make sure you’re the guys who win.

Comments
Is there any point says:
6 June 2012

Stop moaning and just get on with your lives…….what a waste of time and energy……so many ‘experts’……..you lot are the reason why we pay more for goods in the first place.

Will says:
6 June 2012

Still no mention in your summary of the poorly/wrongly worded contract terms that Three insist cover their right to increase prices in line with RPI without invoking the cancellation clause or their sly attempts to change contract terms without informing their customers. These are the real issues that need challenging as Three are ignoring the facts and denying customer’s rights based solely on denial rather than a valid legal basis. They are simply lying to customers who want to exercise their right to cancel. Three cannot liken their increases to those of other mobile providers as they do not include the specific clasue that others do the states their right to increase contract prices in line with RPI without allowing cancellations.

Trytryagain says:
6 June 2012

Will, don’t know if you have seen this already, but others agree with you:

http://bit.ly/M8H2jT

Cannot understand why this has been whitewashed by Which. Time to explore other avenues.

Will says:
6 June 2012

I saw that paper when it was first posted and was pleased that my limited legal knowledge and grasp of the English language weren’t only in their interpretation of Three’s badly worded Terms and Conditions. I think there’s too much discussion at the moment about the theory of RPI price rises and not enough about the specific detail of Three’s contract terms (and their unilateral alterations to said terms). Other companies have got away with it because they have explicit and therefore fair terms in their contracts that I’ve previously posted on Which and Three’s Facebook page. I even tried posting them to Three’s blog page but for some reason they’re still awaiting moderation after a week? Admittedly I posted them on an old blog from November 2011 about their first MBB pricehike which they got away with back then.

And equally no mention in the article that THREE sales staff, even in stores, are STILL adamantly suggesting during their sales pitch to new customers, that the price of new contracts can never be increased within their term, DESPITE the fact they are pushed repeatedly by customers on the subject, they remain insistent that that can never happen to new customers, only to OLDER ONES!

An absolute disgrace and a fine example of misselling… and yet STILL no government appointed body, certainly not OFCOM or the Communications Ombudsman, is taking issue with this!

Suresh says:
6 June 2012

at what point does a price increase on a fixed contract become detrimental then? at what point should we complain? 1%, 2 %, 10%, 100%? although there should really be no price hikes on a fixed contract (or what we all believed to be a fixed contract), it is plausible that 3 feel the need to increase prices in line with inflation / RPI, but at no point in the T&C does it state that a price rise in line with RPI is not of detriment to the consumer, which is the entirety of 3’s argument.

They are arguing that an RPI increase is not detrimental, based on the fact is similar to inflation. However this has no real basis, as any increase in costs to the consumer by definition is detrimental, whether it be 1p or £100 a month.

This is made even more detrimental when people have either lost their jobs, or are on pay freezes and so will not receive a pay rise in line with inflation/RPI, but 3 are disputing this.

The argument to cancel contracts are based on 3s own terms and conditions, which they are not adhering to, and are trying to bully consumers out of their legal rights to cancel contracts without penalty, which almost everybody feels is unfair, immoral, illegal, and is something that Ofcom and Communications Ombudsman should be up in arms about and forcing 3 to allow cancellations.

I for one will be fighting this all the way, and have already complained in writing to 3 twice, complained to Ofcom and the Communications Ombudsman, BBC Watchdog, and am awaiting legal advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau – not in relation to the increase (as this is valid within their T&C) but because they are not allowing our legal rights as set out in 10.1.d of the T&C to cancel because of the pay rise (detriment).

Suresh says:
6 June 2012

to clarify my above post as it does not allow editing :

as above poster also stated – at no point in 3’s T&C does it state that an RPI increase is not deemed to be detrimental, as other provider’s T&Cs did.

Janey says:
6 June 2012

There’s something inherently unfair about a contract where one party can vary the terms without allowing the other to extricate themselves from it unless they incur financial penalties. I was concerned about tying myself into a 24 month contract and when discussing this with a customer service advisor at 3 prior to taking out the contract was told that I at least knew what my payments would be for the period of the contract. Clearly not! I’ve been a customer of theirs since the beginning of 2004.I won’t be as soon as my contract ends!

dpm1968 says:
6 June 2012

Another email from the Executive Offive

Hello Mr xxxxx
The increase for customers was based on their April bill. This increase was therefore based on the RPI for March 2012, which is 3.6%.
You’ve been given our final position on the matter four times now and I’m afraid this won’t change. So, there’s very little point in my corresponding with you any further, as our investigation has been completed and our position made clear. Please see the emails below for clarification.
Thank you
Robert Bishop
Three Executive Office

My Reply was

Mr Bishop,
You have not explained the clause 10.1d adequately, Where in the terms and conditions does it state that RPI increases are deemed as non-detrimental, therefore our correspondence is far from unfinished.Escalate my complaint to your manager; If you are unwilling to escalate my complaint further I will contact OFCOM

The reply was

Hello Mr xxxxxxx
I’m sorry that you don’t feel I’ve been able to explain things adequately for you. My manager, Kimberly Clark, will contact you today to discuss this with you in more detail. Would you like her to contact you by email, or to give you a call? If you’d like a phone call, please confirm the best number to reach you on. I hope you find a resolution that’s suitable and I’m sorry I couldn’t bring the matter to a close for you.
Thank you
Robert Bishop
Three Executive Office

Still waiting for email !!

Free me from Three says:
6 June 2012

Perhaps Kimberly Clark could post her explanation of term 10.1 (d) on which. Clearly those working in the specialised complaints department dealing with this matter have no idea! Should Kimberly feel it’s not plausible to post on here, maybe we could all contact her directly assuming her email address would be easy enough to work out?

Consumer power generally prevails and I think Three would be silly to believe otherwise. As long as the momentum maintains Three will continue to keep bad press which will inevitably hit them in their bottom line!

oooo, I have to accept Which? terms and conditions. Will there be any increase in line with RPI that won’t be of detriment to me…. 🙂

Sunjay Bhogal says:
6 June 2012

I emailed Three about the price increase and get them to explain in why the new customers are better deal while you are increasing the cost to existing customers. Surprise surprise here is the reply. It is the usual cut/past:
————————————————————————————————————
Thanks for your email asking about our price increase.

Our customer terms and conditions state that we may change our pricing annually in line with RPI increases. You would have been given access to and agreed to Three’s standard customer terms when you joined us initially.

This change doesn’t amount to a breach of our customer terms, and so you can’t cancel your contract without the cancellation charge / change your price plan if you haven’t completed your contract term.

We haven’t made any changes to the current policy on contract cancellation / changing price plan mid-contract. You can cancel your contract in the last 30 days of your contract end date which is 2 August 2013. If you choose to cancel now, we’ll have to charge you the monthly cost for the number of months remaining in your contract.

You can upgrade your price plan within your contract term to one that suits your needs better. However, you can’t lower your package.

We know that increases are never welcome, so it’s not a decision we’ve taken lightly. In fact, it’s the first time that we’ve ever put up tariff prices for our contract handset customers and we’re confident that your plan still represents excellent value for money.

We hope that this puts your mind at rest. For more details on the price increase, we’ve set up a special web page at – three.co.uk/pricechanges

Yours sincerely

Sunjay Bhogal says:
6 June 2012

If anybody need this, here is three network customer care direct email address:

customer_complaints@3mail.com

Something Going On. says:
6 June 2012

Which now has a problem that wont go away, yes they can stop or block users from giving their opinion on this site but that means a loss of face and proof which is no longer fit for purpose if it ever was!

What Which has to do for us three consumers is hold data on our complaints against this increase, its easy for three to ingnore us all they are huge we are not.

All which needs to do is ste up an email address that people who wish to cancel without penalty has the ability to register their phone numbers only so there is a record of all those who would like which to keep a record of of when and where customers complained about Threes unjust price rises.

If Which is unable or unwilling to provide this free service I will do it or any other like minded webmaster can do this task in about thirty minutes?

Which is meant to be about helping consumers, we know its going to take time but a solution for all our complaints are needed right now not waiting for 2013?

md says:
6 June 2012

Just had this back from the ombudsman service… they didn’t even bother to read my email fully when I explicitly stated the issue was about changes to packages and exiting via clause 10.1(d).

“””
Thank you for your email received on 29 May 2012 about Three.

How Three provides a service to you, and on what terms, are commercial decisions. For
example, if a company decides to introduce a charge for providing a monthly itemised paper bill,
this is a commercial decision. We cannot look at this type of complaint. Your complaint appears
to be about a commercial decision because you are complaining about a added charge that the
company have chosen to add onto their accounts. We cannot get involved with any kind of
charges that the service providers choose to charge extra at any time.
“””

Hi Something Going On – just to reassure you, we have no intention of blocking you from giving your opinion – quite the opposite. As we’ve said before, all of your comments are extremely useful when our campaigns team take these issues up with companies, regulators, etc. As Patrick said in the Convo, taking this forward is something that may well take some time, so we do appreciate your patience.

Your suggestions about complaints are good, and that’s one of the things that Which? Conversation is here for – we want to give customers a place to come and register their feelings about a company, and we are making note of what people say and – perhaps even more importantly – the sheer number of people who are joining in.

So, do feel free to pursue other channels of complaint as well, but in the meantime we’ll be here listening to your comments, and certainly won’t be blocking/deleting anyone as long as they stick within the commenting guidelines. (you can read them here: https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines/)

@Nikki @Patrick Steen

Thank you both for your support, particularly with regard to defending our rights in freely posting complaints and web links, and airing our views on Twitter.

We are trying as much as possible to direct readers there to these and other forums, where heated discussions by unhappy Three and other mobile network customers are taking place, and where, we believe, the real detail of the legal and moral argument that we as customers feel we have can be understood.

And again, to all readers here and elsewhere, please subscribe to the threads suggested below on Twitter and feel free to add to our efforts to enlighten as many new and repeat customers of Three about the failings of their recent business practices.

Subscribe to:

@ThreeUK

@ThreeUKSUpport

#ThreeUK

Many thanks again to anyone who can help.

Munster says:
6 June 2012

I’m going to send a letter and email stating my intentions to be freed from my contractual obligations, penalty free as defined within Terms and Conditions 10.1(d)

I will state my reasons as to why I’ve executed 10.1(d).

They don’t have to like, or accept (which they won’t), but as long as I get it lodged with the 1 month time frame from the email date. Any future actions that may arise, I will be covered because I initially raised it within the stated time frame.

I suggest you all do the same, just to cover yourselves.

I have been with Three for 9 years (almost as long as they are in business) with two contracts with them; however one contract is 12 month contract so they will lose that contract very soon. However I am stuck with other 24 month contract which may see two annual rises during its term.

Initially I thought that I did not read fine print carefully; however when I read it carefully again the terms are written in a language which is subject to interpretation. Even legal experts cannot see it black & white.

Section 4.1 allows Three to make any changes to contract as they see fit; however section 10.1 allows consumer to cancel contract without penalty if the change is detrimental to them; however Three thinks that the increase in price is not detrimental to me as a user and hence I cannot exercise my right to cancel. It is also surprising that OfCom and OFT are backing Three on this occasion because they agreed with T-Mobile and Orange in the past and hence they cannot retract their words.

UK legal system does not favour customer at all. If I continue to use the service then it will be considered as me accepting the change. If I discontinue the usage and cancel direct debits then I will face red mark on credit rating, which is even more detrimental to me.

I complained to OfCom and responded to their template based response as well. I also wrote to moneysupermarket.com and Carphone Warehouse to ensure that they provide information to intended customers that the prices quoted are not fixed, they are subject to annual increase by service providers.I wrote to Office of Fair Trading over miss-selling the contract to me.

I believe that if everyone keeps writing to all point of sale entities (such as comparison websites, retail websites, advertising standards agencies) they will have to make changes to their websites to ensure that user is provided transparent information and will put them in spot-light. Three, T-mobile and Orange are counting on new customers for their revenue so possibility of increases mid-term will drive away new customers and will create major damage to their bottomline.

I am however thinking about something more fundamental:
1) This episode is likely to reduce faith in consumer contracts and going to shake confidence of customers. It is also becoming clear that regulators won’t stand behind customers. In turn this will result into less customers signing the contracts, suppliers losing revenue and it will increase cost of services. There is however a possibility that Britain’s obsession with contracts will reduce and Pay as you go service will increase.

2) Other suppliers such as telephone companies, broadband providers and TV subscription providers may follow the suit and increase prices mid term. Whilst individual supplier may not result into major issue; if all household service providers start increasing prices during contract, it will create significant dent into customer finances.

Thanks,
Vinayak

anon says:
6 June 2012

well, a turn up for the books : I contacted a legal firm this morning, and they have replied to me saying that they feel I have a very strong case for legal action against 3 for breach of contract (for 3 not allowing cancellations for section 10.1.d) and I am discussing with them further regards representation.

Now I’m not saying they will definitely represent me, or that this is the best course of action, or that i’ll definitely win. All I’m saying is that this legal firm I contacted feels I have a strong case for breach of contract.

For legal reasons I feel it best to keep my name hidden and to keep the name of the firm hidden.

Munster says:
6 June 2012

Maybe you should ask them about a class action on behalf of xx people. If they see that enough people are interested. They may just take up the case.

I would be interested to know if they would.

Michele says:
21 June 2012

Anon – I would be most interested in any follow up with regard to this. Keep us posted! 🙂

Free me from Three says:
6 June 2012

I believe these are Orange T&C’s at the time of their price increase. As you can see theirs T&C’s are clearer unlike those in the Three T&C’s. Perhaps this is why OFcom gave Orange their backing.

terminating your Contract because Orange has changed its terms
4.3 You may also terminate your Contract if we vary its terms, resulting in an excessive increase in the Charges or changes that alter your rights under this Contract to your detriment. In such cases you would need to give us at least 14 days written notice prior to your Billing Date (and within one month of us telling you about the changes). However this option does not apply if:
4.3.1 we have increased the Charges by an amount equal to or less than the percentage increase in the All Items Index of Retail Prices published by the Central Statistical Office in the Monthly Digest of Statistics in any 12 month period; or
4.3.2 the variations we have made have been imposed on us as a direct result of new legislation, statutory instrument, government regulation or licence; or
4.3.3 the variation relates solely to an Orange Additional Service, in which case you may cancel that Orange Additional Service in accordance with Condition 15.1.

My partner and I both have mobile contracts with Three and we both also have a Broadband contract, none of these will be renewed at a loss of £150 per month for Three. Does £2.50 pcm month really matter that much they be prepared to lose £150.00 pcm? Their business model must read like a comedy script!

audrey says:
12 June 2012

i had two contracts with them and broadbend contract. when i asked for better deal after contract where about to finish i was offered even worse deal then i would have after signing a new contract. i quess because people are not organised and do not know law, have no time or just not bothered, the big companies take advantage of them. they are not bothered, because they know many more pople will sign instead. but with regards to upcomming increase i wonder, if a majority of customers would join together and refuse to pay what they would do then? but how to unite people for representing their right?

Anon says:
6 June 2012

To Munster

For some reason I can’t reply to your post directly, but I considered discussing a class action but for now I haven’t even really entered preliminary talks other than an initial assessment of my claim. I’m sure they are aware of the magnitude of people affected, but rest assured I will discuss it with them.

Class action suit in UK does not work similar to US. Whilst class action suits were adopted from English system in 17-18 century; UK legal system does not have such provisions.

Group Litigation Order may be brought forward collectively; however all claimants must participate into the process from the beginning. I suggested that Which? should initiate GLO and various customers should join it and share overall legal cost.

Alternatively if someone got resources, then that person can initiate GLO and others can join the process.
Judicial also prefer GLOs because that reduces number of cases.

Something Going On. says:
6 June 2012

Now we are getting somewhere, we are getting ourself organised this is the power of the web in action for good reasons, three thinks we are out to get them we are not we are simply saying they got this idea and we are helping them understand we are not taking it as loyal customers.

We need to log our names/phone numbers before the month waiting period runs out which has secure servers for this purpose!

We are asking if Which can directly store our details for us, if they cant get us a result with three they can destroy the data if they can do something then we all agree our stored details can be passed to three as proof of registering a formal complaint within the time limits of any said three complaint procedure, simple?

dpm 1968 says:
6 June 2012

Another email and still no answer to my question,

Hello Mr xxxxxxx

I’m sorry to hear you’re unhappy with our recent price increase in your line rental. I understand you wanted to speak with a Team Leader about this issue and I’m happy to answer your questions relating to the current price increase.
As already mentioned to you by Robert, due to rising business costs linked to inflation we’ve had to review our prices and introduce an increase. The increase is 3.6% which was the RPI as of 8th March. We based the increase on the most recent published rate at the time of our press announcement and the start of our communication with existing customers.
This specifically affects you with a £1.25 increase in your monthly line rental and the new monthly charge will be £36.25, plus any additional usage.
I know you’ve specifically asked for more clarification around 10.1(d) of our terms and conditions and due to RPI being lower in April than the figure published in March, you feel this gives you the right to cancel your contract under material detriment.
The RPI rate fluctuates considerably over the life of a 24 month contract. Our approach is to apply a consistent increase, based on the March RPI rate of 3.6%, because it affects all customers who joined before March 8th. Communication and implementation of this change is a significant task, and we have spent a considerable amount of time making sure that we get everything right. So while many customers will have been informed after the April RPI rate (3.5%) was announced on May 22nd, we believe the approach we have taken is fair and consistent.
Our terms and conditions do state that we may change our pricing annually in line with RPI increases and Clause 4 allows us to introduce a price variation as long as that price variation is not more than the percentage increase in the RPI figure. Such changes do not give customers the right to terminate their agreements.
Increasing our prices is not a decision we’ve taken lightly, but business costs linked to inflation have been rising for some time. This is the first time in nine years that we’ve increased prices for our contract phone customers and we’ve tried to apply the increase in the fairest way possible.
I hope this has answered your questions in regards to our price increase. Our position remains the same as explained to you by Robert and we will not be cancelling this contract free of charge.

Thank you
Jamie Wise
Team Leader
Three Executive Office

Anon says:
6 June 2012

“Our terms and conditions do state that we may change our pricing annually in line with RPI increases and Clause 4 allows us to introduce a price variation as long as that price variation is not more than the percentage increase in the RPI figure. Such changes do not give customers the right to terminate their agreements.”

I would politely point out to them that at nowhere in their T&C does it state that RPI changes are not detrimental and therefore not counted in section 10.1.d.

I would then go on to tell them I was suing them for breach of contract.

Of course I’ve already done this 🙂

Munster says:
6 June 2012

Interesting, I have just re-read T+Cs 4

4. Variations to your agreement or prices
4.1 We may vary any of the terms of your agreement, including our Packages, on the following basis:
–(a) any updated Packages and new terms will be available on our website and on request to Three Customer Services;
–(b) we will let you know at least one month in advance, if we decide to:
—-(i) discontinue your Package; or
—-(ii) make any variations to your agreement which are likely to be of material detriment to you; or
—-(iii) increase the fixed periodic charges for your Package (if applicable) by an amount which is more than the percentage increase in the Retail Prices Index Figure (or any future equivalent) in any twelve month period.

They have sent us 1+ month advance notice. They only needed to do that for 4.1(b)(i),(ii),(iii). If the increases are not related to any of 4.1(b), they don’t need to give us 1 month notice.

So are they implicitly implying that the rises are classes by any of 4.1(b). If so, then 10.1(d) applies also, and your right to cancel without fees.

dpm1968 says:
6 June 2012

Dear Three,

Once again you have completely ignored my question and just repeated what I know.
Once again I will ask the question that I want answered.

Where in the terms and conditions does it state that a RPI increase is deemed as not being detrimental (Material or other) therefore unable to cancel under 10.1d, I have studied the terms and conditions and again have been unable to find this clause or statement.

Any price increase must be detrimental.

The line in your email states “Such changes (RPI Increase) do not give customers the right to terminate their agreements” again this statement cannot be found in the Terms and conditions.

If you are unable to provide written evidence that these are included in the Terms and Conditions then escalate the complaint to a senior executive who should be able to answer this simply question.

I await your reply

Suresh says:
6 June 2012

“Dear Three

Thank you for your reply.

It still however does not even mention section 10.1.d of the terms and conditions of the iPhone pay monthly agreement.

Section 4.1 states you can increase price in line with RPI increase – I am not disputing that.
However, under section 10.1.d it states I have the right to cancel if there is a detrimental change to my agreement.

I am not stating that you have breached the terms and conditions by increasing prices in line with RPI.
I am stating that you have breached the terms and conditions by not allowing cancellation of my agreement under section 10.1.d of the terms and conditions.

At no point in the terms and conditions does it state that a cost or price increase in line with RPI is NOT detrimental.

Therefore, I am informing that I wish to cancel my agreement, under section 10.1.d of the iPhone pay Monthly terms and conditions, as is my right, thereby not incurring any cancellation fee.

Unless you specifically state I cannot cancel my agreement under section 10.1.d of the iPhone Pay Monthly terms and conditions, I will assume that you have accepted my cancellation under section 10.1.d and waive the right to charge a cancellation fee.

If you fail to respond with 14 days, I will assume that you have accepted my cancellation as outlined above under section 10.1.d of the iPhone Pay Monthly terms and conditions. ”

The above was sent as a reply to yet another generic “you cannot cancel” email.
Will be interesting to see their reply to see if they even finally acknowledge section 10.1.d.

I am phoning the Citizens Advice Bureaux tomorrow morning to get advice on suing via small claims court.

Suresh says:
6 June 2012

edit to the above :

the time frame for small claims court is 6 years for a breach of contract, so although I’m no lawyer, I would say as long as you submit, in writing (or I suppose email?) within the 1 month time frame given by 3, of your intentions to cancel under section 10.1.d, anything after that 1 month should be immaterial as the initial complaint was within that one month time frame.

After a quick search online : If suing via small claims, you can specify any amount under £5000 you wish to claim, e.g. if 3 drag it out I guess you could theoretically claim for any costs (monthly bills) incurred due to their breach of contract and delaying tactics. You have to pay a fee to start the claim process, which appears to be around 10% of the compensation claimed. Not sure how much to pay for unspecific (where the court decides) compensation.

I would strongly encourage everybody to seek legal advice on suing via small claims court, as it is painfully clear that Ofcom and OM:C don’t give a rat’s a$$ about the consumer.