/ 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
Kieran Jones says:
9 June 2012

Has anyone taken any legal advice over this? Personally i think it is illegal but i suppose a solicitor would be the one to give a proper legal answer….

Suresh says:
9 June 2012

I have taken legal advice, from Citizens Advice Bureau (they were not very helpful), and 2 law firms.

CAB said that I could sue, but just look for any T&c three would use to defend themselves with. They made no mention to whether I had a car or not. Hardly good legal advice. The 2 law firms said I probably did have a but it would depend entirely on the
definition of detrimental, which only a judge can decide. They suggested bombarding three with letters and complaints detailing your intention to cancel. Technically 3 don’t have to formally accept it under 10.1(d) but If 3 refuse to accept cancellation under 10.1 (d) then you can probably sue for anticipatory breach of contract – which is what I’m doingg

davy_L says:
18 June 2012

sub here – i did – i’m a commercial contracts lawyer at a city of London firm – clause 4.1 is an entitlement to cancel if a price increase is more than RPI but not (cruicially) a right to actually increase the price:

http://www.ombudsman-services.org/forms/complain/communications/thankyou.php

hope this helps,

D

I am not in the legal profession at all.

Three (and other mid contract price rising mobile phone operators) are in breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 – which state;
Prohibition of unfair commercial practices
3.—(1) Unfair commercial practices are prohibited.
(2) Paragraphs (3) and (4) set out the circumstances when a commercial practice is unfair.
(3) A commercial practice is unfair if—
(a)it contravenes the requirements of professional diligence; and .
(b)it materially distorts or is likely to materially distort the economic behaviour of the average consumer with regard to the product

Due to Part 5 of this legislation;
Validity of agreements
29. An agreement shall not be void or unenforceable by reason only of a breach of these Regulations

The responsibility for enforcement of this legislation is with Trading standards, under Part 4: Enforcement,
Duty to enforce
19.—(1) It shall be the duty of every enforcement authority to enforce these Regulations.
(2) Where the enforcement authority is a local weights and measures authority the duty referred to in paragraph (1) shall apply to the enforcement of these Regulations within the authority’s area.
(3) Where the enforcement authority is the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland the duty referred to in paragraph (1) shall apply to the enforcement of these Regulations within Northern Ireland.
(4) In determining how to comply with its duty of enforcement every enforcement authority shall have regard to the desirability of encouraging control of unfair commercial practices by such established means as it considers appropriate having regard to all the circumstances of the particular case.

What have trading standards said about this case?
Precisely nothing!
To take further action as regards cancelling your contract, a customer would have to find other breaches of different legislation.

Nice to know our MPs voted through this legislation with clauses in it to protect businesses who have RPI price rises hidden within and not informing customers.
Under the old legislation this would have been grounds to render contracts unenforceable.

An alternative approach would be to default and argue against “cancellation fees” on the grounds that the fees are unenforceable penalty charges.
As we know, this could cause problems for people who are concerned about their credit rating.

Seems no official body wants to honour their duty in regulations and the individual is punished by taking action to bring this this before a small claims court.
Where’s our rights?

Simon Timmins says:
9 June 2012

Wht have which stopped us posting?

Tim wood says:
10 June 2012

Hi,
I would like to cancel my contract due to the price increase to my monthly contract.
As stated in your terms and conditions 10.1.d, (You can end the agreement within one month of us telling you about a variation to your agreement (which includes your Price Plan) which is likely to be of detriment to you. You must give notice to 3 Customer Services within that month and your agreement will finish at the end of that month once we receive your notice. (A Cancellation Fee will not be charged.) 
 I have the right to cancel as I am unemployed and can’t afford the increase. This has a massive impact on my income/outcome.
My initial contract is for £35, I am not paying anymore.
I will cancel the direct debit and send this matter to small claims court if you are unable to resolve this issue

Suresh says:
10 June 2012

I would include definition of detrimental under unfair consumer contract terms 1999 (or whatever ye actual title is -google regulation 7 of it).

audrey says:
12 June 2012

why will you go for small claim court but not ombudsmen?
asking because i am in a similar situation and knowing how 3mobile deals with customers, i do not think they will cancell it.

thanks

Suresh says:
12 June 2012

@ audrey – 3 main reasons I believe:
1. 3 refuse to issue a deadlock letter or enter ADR (alternative dispute resolution), therefore you cannot go to the ombudsmen properly.
2. The ombudsmen will likely do absolutely nothing because it is ‘commercial dispute’, which is ridiculous.
3. The only body which has any real power here is the courts, and because it’s less than £5000 it’s small claims court.

Tony says:
10 June 2012

I was informed of this increase so I looked up the online contract Ts&Cs, interestingly this shows a date long after I took out my contract. So where are my contract Ts&Cs and are they the same???
At the end of it it shows the ref: 99310-06 Apr12

Suresh says:
10 June 2012

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B9faRR9U9KAyT09YaTZiSkxuUFU is the old Jan 11 iPhone T&C. taken off the website before 3 tried to hide them from everybody

Tony says:
13 June 2012

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B9faRR9U9KAyT09YaTZiSkxuUFU is the old Jan 11 iPhone T&C. taken off the website before 3 tried to hide them from everybody

Suresh This link no longer exists…… wonder why? Could it be because the earlier contracts didn’t have this ability to make increased charges written in?

Suresh says:
13 June 2012

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B9faRR9U9KAyT09YaTZiSkxuUFU still works
https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B9faRR9U9KAyT09YaTZiSkxuUFU try that one if it doesnt work
google docs being very slow this morning though

Kieran Jones says:
11 June 2012

I have taken legal advise on this and it would seem that Three are not within their rights to start defining detrimental however they now want to. As they haven’t defined it – As Orange and T-mobile have – it is a subjective definition and open to interpretation. How can they tell you what might or might not be of detriment to you?? They drafted the terms and conditions so the onus is on them to have made them clear. They have failed to do so. The advice I have been given is to try with the Ombudsman (who are a waste of time) or the best bet is court action. The argument in court would be that their terms should have been clearer and therefore I feel it is detrimental that I am now paying more for the same service. This then, as a detrimental variation to me, enables me to use the cancellation procedure as outlined in section 10.1

I have also written to the Office of Fair Trading with regards Three’s mis-selling of supposedly ‘fixed rate’ contracts. I’ll let you know how that and the Ombudsman / Court action fares.

dpm1968 says:
11 June 2012

Mr Dyson, Three Executives and Customer Services.
In my previous email i have asked for the following to be clarified,

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 simple question.
If i do not receive a comprehensive reply to my question by 13th June 2012, then i will cancel my account and direct debit under section 10.1d.
I will then pursue a claim for breach of contract via the small claims court.
Mr xxxxxxx

The reply was ……..

Hello Mr xxxxxxx
Thank you for your latest email and we’ll aim to have a comprehensive response to your questions by 13th June 2012, as you’ve requested.

I’m very sorry that you feel we’ve not fully answered your questions in our earlier responses, but I hope we can still clear this up for you.
Thank you again
Kimberley Clark
Executive Office Team Leader

dpm1968 says:
12 June 2012

Another standard reply from three, didnt answer my questions !!

Hello Mr XXXXXX
You’ve told us of your unhappiness about our forthcoming price increase, in line with RPI. So, I’d just like to give you our position and explain why we’ve taken it.
Clause 4.1 of our customer terms clearly allows us to vary the terms. Under this clause we are required, under 4.1(a), to publish details of any change on our website. In addition, in certain circumstances we are also obliged to give customers one month’s notice of the changes, in accordance with 4.1(b).
Clause 4.1(b) is only setting out the circumstances where notification of a change need be given to a customer and a price increase of less than RPI does not require notification (although we have chosen to notify customers in this instance). The right for a customer to terminate the contract for a variation however, only arises when one of those conditions is satisfied. That is apparent from the wording at the end of clause 4.1(b) “You can end the agreement for such variations as explained in clause 10” (emphasis added). Even were this not to be the case, we do not consider that customers would have the right to terminate under clause 10 on the basis that this price variation is ‘detrimental’ or ‘materially detrimental.’ A price increase of less than RPI is not, in our opinion, detrimental within the meaning of clause 10, particularly when clause 10 is read in the light of clause 4.1(b). We’ve not defined ‘material’ or ‘detriment’ in our terms because the meaning of those terms will vary on a case by case basis and according to each customer’s circumstances. However, in the context of price variations in line with RPI, in response to consumer complaints regarding the Orange and T-Mobile price increases (in 2011 and 2012 respectively), Ofcom considered the price increases with reference of General Condition 9.6 and announced that it considered that a rise in line with inflation was unlikely to result in material detriment to the majority of customers. I hope this has helped your understanding of our position in this matter.
Thank you
Kimberley Clark
Team Leader
Three Executive Office

Will have to email back and cancel my contract

Suresh says:
12 June 2012

5 days on and still waiting a reply from customer services on my email detailing cancellation under 10.1 (d).

we all have come to expect bad customer service from 90% of companies nowadays, but 3 truly takes the prize for worst ever.
some examples:
1. refusal to put you through to supervisors/managers
2. refusal to escalate complaints
3. blatant reading from scripts and now allowing even a conversation
4. refusal to issue PAC codes unless you accept early termination charges (this one is borderline illegal / blackmail)
5. completely ignoring any content of letters and emails that they don’t like

all this on top of the network with by far the worst coverage of them all, and some of the slowest internet I’ve ever seen.

I just hope people read these things and seriously think about joining 3 and whether they are willing to be screwed over by them.

A quick update for you, which I’ve posted in the other Three discussion as well: the current advice, which comes from our legal team is to complain to Three, but don’t simply stop paying for your contract, or cancel your direct debit. If you complain and make it clear that you are paying under protest, then you’ve made it clear that you don’t accept the price increase. However, by stopping paying you risk damaging your credit score and getting into trouble.

Our lawyers have been speaking to Three, and have specifically asked about the position re: iPhone contracts. We are currently waiting for a response. I’ll let you know when we have more info.

Suresh says:
13 June 2012

thanks Nikki

good to see which? are still on the case and the advice from the legal team is most welcome. Are they saying that paying under protest (and telling 3 as such) will count as evidence in court as to indication to cancel / not accept the price rise?

Hi Suresh – ‘payment under protest’ effectively confirms that you don’t think the company is entitled to your money, and you will be claiming it back. So yes, it’s a way of demonstrating that you don’t accept the price rise. See the first ‘FAQ’ at the top of this page – http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/buying-services/how-to-deal-with-a-disputed-bill/problem-solvers/

badda_bing says:
21 June 2012

Nikki/Patrick, thanks for the response. As mentioned by my fellow posters this is not about an increase this is about 3 using T&Cs for their benefit (price increase) but then ignoring the same T&Cs when people choose to cancel under 10.1(d).

The issue that we are looking for clarification on is whether cancelling under 10.1(d) is allowed as any price increase in by it’s nature detrimental to those it’s applied to. There is no definition of the term ‘detrimental’ and even if there was could it really be any different to the generally accepted definition?

As others have said, I personally have no problems with price increases, they are part of life.

However what is not acceptable is signing people up on two year “fixed” contracts which are not properly explained at the point of sale. Also what is not acceptable is penalising one group of customers, namely those that commit to three, for the benefit of the rest, new, payg and business customers.

How immoral is it to increase my price but then offer a better phone (iPhone 4S) on the same package for cheaper (£34.00) than I was paying BEFORE the increase? The new £34 price allegedly includes the price increase.

Overall this is just hocking business practice, and what’s even worse is that there is no protection for consumers. It’s going to take someone with time and money to press this all the way to Court.

Awful situation really

dpm1968 says:
13 June 2012

Followed the advice on here and sent this

Mr Dyson, Three Executives and Customer Services,

I have noted the comments of your generic email and do not accept them.
The questions raised have still not been answered satisfactorily.
I will continue with my contract but will be “Paying under Protest” until a legal precedence has been found at which I will cancel my account immediately with no early termination fees.
Ensure that the contents of this email are noted by return email.
Mr xxxxxxx

dpm1968 says:
13 June 2012

Hello Mr xxxxxxx
Thank you for your email and I’m sorry that you’ve found all of our explanations to be unsatisfactory.
Your comments that you’ll continue with your contract, but will be paying under protest, have been noted.
We also acknowledge your intention to cancel immediately and without penalty, in the event that a legal precedence is found allowing you to do so.
Thank you again
Kimberley Clark
Executive Office Team Leader

Paul Emery says:
14 June 2012

Three refuses to discuss or even acknowledge the impact of clause 10.1(d). In that circumstance, cancelling the direct debit is the only course of action to follow.

Nigel says:
14 June 2012

Another customer not happy with the price rise. In future when your are keenly asked to provide your driving licence and credit card – just stop! Now ask them in put it in writing that the contract is fixed for it’s duration.

If they refuse to sign such terms then walk away and if necessary take a Pay As You Go deal until these Mobile companies realise that they are not dealing with consumers who will accept anything.

same reply as usual.. here is the copy of it..

Dear Mr xxx

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 if you haven’t completed your contract term.

In clause 10.1(d) of our Terms and Conditions, it states that customers are entitled to cancel in the event of a change resulting in material detriment. However, you don’t have the right to end your contract with us because of our latest price changes, as it is not detrimental to your contract.

Clause 4 allows us to introduce a price variation as long as that price variation isn’t more than the percentage increase in RPI. Such changes don’t give customers the right to terminate their agreements.

We haven’t made any changes to the current policy on contract cancellation 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,

Nauzad Daroga
Three Customer Service

David B says:
16 June 2012

What I don’t understand is..

I have a Samsung Galaxy S2 and pay ‘3’ £30 per month for all you can eat data & calls.
The phone is now 7 months into my contract, but anyone can walk in off the street and buy the same phone, on the same data / call package & pay £25 per month…

Why do I have to pay an extra £1 per month????

Reece says:
17 June 2012

You have to pay the extra £1 a month so people can walk into their shops and pay £25. It’s very short sighted of ‘3’ to have this kind of approach to existing customers.

john M says:
19 June 2012

All THREE customers who have been effected by the price rise post here:

http://blog.three.co.uk/2012/05/15/htc-desire-c-is-coming-soon-to-three/comment-page-2/#comment-44209

simple post:

“CANCELLATION IS COMING”

every blog post for pages should just say this. people power.

rob says:
21 June 2012

just subscribing to this thread – have been following the old one and appreciate the comment from Which along with the redirect to this thread. I am paying under protest and awaiting the outcome. I want to stay with THREE because the coverage and data access is better than I used to get from Orange and better than my works phone on Voda – but I wont stay with them if they can and do keep stitching us up.

I have directed at least a dozen people to three in the past, and have now prevented a few from signing up with them over the last few weeks.

I’m not sure why there needs to be two different threads, but anyway…

I’ve said this on the other one: I don’t think not cancelling and “paying under protest” (Which?’s advice) is an effective tactic. If you do so, you may as well accept the price rise.

What exactly are you going to sue for later, if you’ve paid and continued to use the service? The extra £1.00 a month, or whatever the increase is? You’d be lucky to get over the minimum claim level.

And that’s assuming any court would overlook the fact that *Three are clearly entitled to raise their prices by as much as they like*. Your contractual remedy is to cancel.

brian says:
21 June 2012

I’ve just posted this to the three complaints department, I also took a screenprint copy as you can’t prove you sent it otherwise.

I made my original choice to use three based on a fixed price contract and was not made aware that it was variable Your price rise is detrimental to me and I wish to leave immediately and cancel this contract and all the other contracts at my postcode address without penalty in accordance with your clause 10.1d. I understand however that you are not honouring the clauses within your own contracts therefore I must remain tied to these contracts for fear that you will destroy my credit score. I will remain therefore paying under protest up until a determination is reached against your company by the powers that be that allows me to leave.
Your moral compass must be spinning faster than Jack Sparrow’s

@Brian

That’s excellently worded Brian, thank you for sharing it here and I wish you all the very best and hope Three are indeed eventually found wanting in this matter.