Consumers could see their monthly bills rise after Ofcom ruled that consumers should be able to walk away from their contracts if the price is increased during its duration.
The long-awaited ruling, which was meant to be published in June, was finally published this morning and has been described as a 'partial victory' by one operator. While they will have to absorb future inflationary costs into their contracts, they will still be able to change the prices for the likes of calls to premium rate lines or roaming fees.
In this morning's ruling, Ofcom said any increase in a monthly bill, including inflation, will give consumers the right to walk away. Operators must give consumers at least 30 days' notice of any price rise. Ofcom argues the move gives consumers 'a fairer deal'. The changes will come into effect three months from today (23 October) and will affect any mobile contract entered after this date. Landline and broadband contracts are also included in the ruling.
Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s consumer group director, said: 'Ofcom is today making clear that consumers entering into fixed-term telecoms contracts must get a fairer deal. We think the sector rules were operating unfairly in the provider’s favour, with consumers having little choice but to accept price increases or pay to exit their contract. We’re making it clear that any increase to the monthly subscription price should trigger a consumer’s right to leave their contract – without penalty.'
Ofcom said the delay in the report, which was originally due to be published in June, was because of the volume of replies. More than 300 responses were sent to the regulator, who was expecting several dozen.
A Vodafone UK spokesman said: 'We have received Ofcom’s decision on the consultation on mid-contract price changes. We will be taking some time to review this lengthy document so that we can fully understand what it means for customers.'
EE and O2 said they were considering the findings of the document. Three was the most effusive operator and a spokesman said: 'This is really good news for consumers. It will make it easier for mobile users to make informed choices, and will encourage consistency and transparency in contract pricing. The threat of mid-term contract price rises added complexity and confusion to what should be a clear and simple choice for consumers.'
Author: Graeme Neill