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Call an end to high telecoms prices

I was on BBC Radio 4 You and Yours today (2 February 2022) talking about telecoms price rises.

Most of the telecom providers are putting up their prices in March 2022, regardless of whether you are in a contract, or not. Isn’t the cost of living rising enough, without having to deal with this?!

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Telecom providers are using the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rate of inflation (currently at 5.4%) to increase “in contract” prices. They then add up to 3.9% on top of this to calculate the new monthly payment.

What are your rights regarding telecom increases and what can you do about it?

1) Under rules set by the regulator, Ofcom, if you’re on a fixed price contract for your broadband or mobile, your provider can’t put up your price beyond what was agreed when you signed up to your contract, without giving you a right to exit without a penalty. They must give you at least 30 days’ notice, during which time you can decide to move providers.

2) Price variation terms are not prohibited under general consumer law, such as the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, as long as they are “fair” to the consumer. Ultimately, though, decisions on whether terms are fair are made by the courts.

3) Ofcom rules do not prohibit providers from using price variation terms. However, providers must make them sufficiently prominent and transparent when you agree to the contract (i.e. you are made aware of the different amounts you will have to pay at different points of the contract). If you have not been made aware, then you can leave the contract without any penalty, meaning you will not pay a termination fee.

4) If the price rise was in your contract and you don’t think your provider set it out in a sufficiently prominent and transparent way before you signed up, complain to them.

5) There are also fixed-term telecoms contracts that may include future price rises. With these, Ofcom has strict rules to ensure the rises are set out clearly before you sign up, and cannot just be included in the small print.

6) Providers should have in place special, cheaper deals for people in receipt of certain benefits (sometimes known as ‘social tariffs’). In July 2021 Ofcom set out some boundaries for effective social tariffs, such as ensuring there are no data caps, minimal initial up-front costs and no early termination charges. A spokesperson for Ofcom said that they

“… expect providers who offer social tariffs to do more to tell eligible customers about them. They should also make it swift and simple to sign up. And we are strengthening our rules further. We’ll also soon set out plans to help ensure that customers in debt and those struggling to pay are treated fairly by their provider.”

7) If you are not happy with a telecom provider, complain. If contacting customer services doesn’t get a satisfactory response, write to the CEO using contact details from ceoemail.com. The CEO may not respond in person but you should at least get one of the executive resolutions team responding on their behalf.

If you’re still not satisfied, ask for a deadlock letter (you don’t need to do this if more than 8 weeks has passed since your initial complaint) and take the matter to the Ombudsman, CISASor Ombudsman Services, depending on the company’s membership. It is free to the customer to do this.

8) Seven million consumers have passed the end of their contract period and many of these may well be able to find a better deal elsewhere. They are probably paying well over the odds and should look at switching. Under Ofcom rules, providers must warn you when your current contract is ending and tell you what you could save by signing up to a new package. In 2020 this led to more than one million people securing a better deal in a single year.

The importance of switching energy suppliers and telecom providers on ITV News

9) When you receive a letter informing you of the price hike, contact the provider and haggle. Tell them that you are considering leaving. Have a look at packages from other providers that are similar and use these in your haggling efforts! Be calm, objective and polite but assertive. Remember, someone phoning up to haggle about their telecom package will usually get a better offer!

10) Make sure you do everything in writing! Although we are talking telecoms here we know how dreadful their customer service tends to be! By putting everything in writing, you have the evidence if you need to engage with Ombudsman Services or CISAS.

What does Ofcom say about the telecom rises

When asked what Ofcom would be doing to monitor what was happening, a spokesperson said:

“We understand news of price rises will be particularly unwelcome at a time when household finances are already under significant strain, with the cost of living increasing sharply. While Ofcom doesn’t set retail prices, we are concerned about the prospect of rises that are significantly above inflation – and the squeeze on those who can least afford them. Ofcom will continue to monitor this issue closely, including by analysing consumer complaints. If we see evidence of widespread issues in terms of compliance with our rules, we won’t hesitate to step in.

Ofcom will continue to monitor prices closely, as we keep pressure on phone and broadband companies to ensure that people are not priced out of affordable services, and those struggling to pay their bills get the support they need.”

Is it time to ring the changes?

Ofcom needs to be doing more to tighten the rules around these price hikes and to allow consumers to walk away penalty-free after such rises.

The best advice at the moment is to shop around. Either switch or haggle to reduce the cost of your bills with your current provider.

 

Further help with complaining about telecom providers

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How to complain effectively to telecom providers links to various posts regarding mobile, broadband, telecoms…

Purchase and download Templates for complaining about utilities if you just want a template to get a matter sorted quickly.

 

 

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If you need help with complaining effectively and making sure you are never fobbed off. GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

 

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101 Habits of an Effective Complainer to help you become more skilled and assertive when making complaints

 

 

 

By Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow

Consultant | Author | Speaker | Blogger | Presenter | Journalist
Helping to make, prevent and deal with complaints

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