Mobile phone companies called out for overcharging loyal customers

Press release

Mobile phone companies called out for overcharging loyal customers: The Complaining Cow shows how to take on your mobile phone provider
Mobile phone companies have been found to be overcharging customers whose fixed deal has ended. CAB and The Complaining Cow are campaigning for mobile companies to end this behaviour.

A mystery shopping exercise conducted by the Citizens Advice Bureau discovered that customers of Vodafone, EE and Three who choose to stay on the same phone plan after the fixed deal ends do not get their bills reduced. –This means that customers are paying on average an extra £22 a month for a phone they have already paid off. Loyal customers could find themselves still paying £46 a month extra for the iPhone 8, after it has been paid off.

Mobile phone companies typically incorporate the cost of the mobile phone handset into the price of the contract. This means that the cost is paid over the initial period of the contract, with part of each month’s charge paying for the phone and part paying for calls, texts and data. But, as CAB has found, some companies are continuing to charge for the phone, even after its cost has been paid off.

CAB found that 36% of people with a handset-inclusive mobile phone contract stayed on the same contract after the end of their fixed deal period, with 19% staying on the same contract for more than 6 months afterwards.

Consumer expert Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! is unimpressed by the findings and joins CAB in calling for the providers to reduce the cost of the renewed contract, as the phone has been paid for.

She advises taking on the provider and asserting your rights if you have been affected!
1) If your provider renewed your contract after you had paid off the handset and you could have taken up a contract with another provider, you should write to the provider and state that it is in breach of The Consumer Rights Act 2015 because the contract is weighted in favour of the trader and…

2) that it is also a breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2014 because the trader could be considered as committing a misleading practice and you can request one of 3 options:

i) Unwind a contract and get the money back and restore yourself to the position you were in before entering the contract

ii) Fixed discount on the price dependent on the severity of the misleading practice, 25% more than minor, 50% significant, 75% serious and 100% if very serious

iii) Damages for detriment caused can be secured when losses exceed the price paid and can be applied if you have incurred distress and inconvenience

and

3) under The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations (2013) you must understand what goods and services are being provided and there should be no hidden costs.

4) Quote all these laws and regulations in your email or letter to the company. Make sure you write, as then you have the evidence trail should you need to take the matter further.

5) Give details of when the contract was taken out and the circumstances of the renewal and be clear about what you want them to do to resolve the matter.

6) Should you not be satisfied with the response you could contact the CEO (contact details for CEOs at http://CEOemail.com) You are unlikely to get a response from the CEO but the matter will be escalated to the Executive team.

7) You can take the matter to an alternative dispute resolution scheme. This will be CISAS or Ombudsman Services depending on which scheme your provider is signed up with. You can go to them after 8 weeks from when you submitted your complaint or request a deadlock letter from the trader before that time.

 

For more information about the naughty companies see Citizen’s Advice Bureau press release Mobile phone networks overcharging loyal customers by up to £38 a month

All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers advice, laws for almost every complaint about telecom providers!

Alternative Dispute Resolution: What it all means

Alternative Dispute Resolution

From the 9th July 2015 The EU ADR Directive was supposed to come into force. It was delayed until the 1st October. This compels the government to ensure that ADR schemes are in place.

ADR is a process that enables disputes between a consumer and a business to be settled via an independent mechanism outside the court system and can provide a quicker resolution. There are different forms of ADR:

Arbitration – an impartial and independent third party will decide how to resolve your dispute. In most cases, the arbitrator’s decision is binding and cannot be challenged in court. Costs vary and sometimes arbitration is free as with IDRS and ACAS services.

Adjudication – by ombudsmen (or ADR provider) and free to the consumer. Binding on the trader (they lose membership if don’t abide by the rules but this rare) but not on you should you not agree and want to take the matter to court.

Mediation/conciliation – remains confidential and cannot be used in a later court hearing. The cost varies: in some instances it’s free; in others, it can get expensive. By the very nature of the word “mediation” someone will work with you and the other party to reach a decision. If agreement is made and signed this is legally binding. You would only be to go to court to enforce it if necessary.

Negotiation – which is used most commonly in employment situations. You can choose to have a union rep or someone else present while you negotiate.

Generally, arbitration is binding on both parties to the dispute; mediation/conciliation and negotiation are non-binding; and adjudication and ombudsmen schemes do not bind the complainant, but will be binding on the other side.

There’s a guest post from the Financial Ombudsman.

Furniture and dispute resolution guest post.

The ADR appears to have let the flood gates open and the potential for an omnishambles of ombudsmen is upon us.

Film recorded for Citizen’s Advice: