Virgin Mobile’s increasing its prices by 2.9%. For new customers? No, for existing customers who’re locked into fixed contracts. We say ‘fixed’ – like other providers before it, fixed doesn’t seem to mean fixed price.
Vodafone, Three Mobile, O2, Orange, T-Mobile, EE, Talkmobile and now Virgin Mobile. To these providers, a fixed contract only appears to mean ‘fixed-term’.
But what does ‘fixed’ mean to Virgin Mobile customers? When they sign up for two years at £25 a month, do they think the only thing that’s fixed is the duration of the contract? I doubt it.
In fact, not even mobile companies’ own staff seem to understand that prices can change on a fixed contract. As you may have seen in our latest undercover investigation, when we asked mobile phone shop assistants outright, 57% still maintained that prices would stay the same throughout the duration of the contract. You can’t blame them – it’s common sense, isn’t it? Apparently not.
Price rise on a ‘contract I agreed to at a set price’
Anyway, back to Virgin Mobile. Ryan on Twitter alerted us to the price rise:
‘Virgin Mobile letting me know that the price of my s***** mobile phone contract is going up. The contract I agreed to at a set price. Going up.’
We got in touch with Virgin Mobile, in the hope that it was all just a bad dream. However, the rise was confirmed – from 22 July 2013, your monthly mobile tariff price will go up by 2.9%. That’s around 70p extra per month on a £25 contract. The price of calls, texts and data outside of your monthly tariff allowance won’t be affected. You can see how much extra you’ll be paying by using Virgin Mobile’s ‘handy’ calculator.
The mobile provider will be contacting those affected to give them 14 days’ notice of the price changes.
Can you cancel your Virgin Mobile contract?
So, the big question is – can you cancel your contract? Yes, but not without paying an early disconnection fee as the possibility of a price rise is mentioned in the small print. These exit fees are usually the remaining charges on your contract term, which doesn’t exactly give you the freedom to leave. A Virgin Media spokesperson told us:
‘We’ve protected our customers by not passing on increasing business costs for many years now. However, in order for us to be able to continue to invest in our mobile services and to develop market-leading tariffs, including unbeatable customer benefits such as free calls and inclusive insurance, we’ve had to apply a small increase in line with rising operational costs due to inflation.’
It looks like Virgin Mobile is trying to get its hike in before Ofcom announces the outcome of its consultation into price rises during fixed contracts. Ofcom’s consultation was launched off the back of our Fixed Means Fixed campaign, following more than 45,000 pledges of support.
It’s simple really – we think fixed should mean fixed. And if providers don’t want to keep their end of the bargain, you should be able to exit your contract without penalty.
We want Ofcom to introduce new rules that enforce this and we eagerly await its announcement later in the summer. You can put the pressure on Ofcom by pledging support for our Fixed Means Fixed campaign – and if you’re an affected Virgin Mobile customer, shout about how you feel.