Vodafone has been warned that it needs to inform customers its prices might change during the life of a contract.
The Advertising Standards Authority issued the warning after a complaint was brought about the price plans section of Vodafone's website. It highlighted Sim-only plans beginning from £10.50 per month. A consumer complained this could be misleading, as the price could rise over the course of a contract.
Vodafone argued the prices did not need qualification. It said its right to increase line rental in line with inflation was made clear in the Airtime Agreement sent to customers, which promised at least 14 days notice if the price was to be increased.
While the ASA accepted Vodafone had disclosed the possibility of increasing prices in line with inflation, it said it did not make it clear enough because a consumer had to click through several web pages to read it. It ruled the ad must not appear again in its current form.
Mid-contract price rises are currently subject to an investigation from Ofcom, after it received hundreds of complaints from consumers. Operators argued the rises are necessary to deal with increased costs during the life of a contract of up to two years.
A Vodafone spokesman made reference to the Ofcom consultation and said 'it would have been more helpful for the ASA to have issued industry wide guidance on advertising practice in this area, prior to making isolated decisions on single pieces of communication'.
He added: 'We are already looking at how we can improve the information that is given to customers when they join us or upgrade. We have not hidden the fact that prices can change during the term of a contract, and we understand that across our industry, mobile phone companies need to ensure that customers receive clear information. Within Vodafone we have already taken further steps to ensure that we do exactly this.'
Author: Graeme Neill