A campaign to allow users to get out of their mobile contract at any time, should they
have serious problems with their signal, has received backing from both the DCMS and Ofcom.
Scottish National Party (SNP) MP Drew Hendry is the man behind the campaign, which aims to extend new consumer rights legislation from broadband users to mobile phone contracts. The broadband rules are written in Ofcom’s Code of Practice, allowing customers to exit contracts if a provider ‘fails to provide sufficient reliable service’.
Speaking to Mobile, Hendry, who is the MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, said that he was expecting progress soon: ‘I’d expect Ofcom and the government to move as quickly as possible to implement these changes so that consumers can switch and cancel contracts if they have poor coverage without suffering for it.
'It’s a campaign that is widely supported by the public, businesses, the government and Ofcom; there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be implemented. Both said they agree with the proposition, they’ve been unequivocal about that, the ball is now in their court to move that as quickly as possible.’
Hendry explained that the campaign came about from discussions with local constituents – he also found support from representatives of a number of other rural areas: ‘During the election campaign and as an SNP councillor I spent a lot of time knocking on doors and speaking to people in their places of business. This was an issue that came up repeatedly. People don’t want to be stuck in a contract that is useless to them, paying for something that they aren’t able to use.
‘The engagement that I had during the campaign meant that when I got to Westminster I really wanted to go and tackle the poor service people in my constituency were experiencing.’
Reacting to the campaign, a number of mobile networks have pointed to the switching measures already in place. O2 highlighted its Refresh scheme, which separates payments for the device and the contract, providing an easy exit route for customers looking to leave.
A Vodafone spokesperson said: ‘We always advise customers to check the coverage for the locations that are important to them before taking out an agreement with us – or any other operator. We recognise the importance of mobile connectivity, which is why we spent more than £1bn last year on our network across the country, and will spend a similar amount this year.
‘However, we are also very aware that in certain areas of the UK we may struggle to deliver the level of coverage our customers expect. This could be due to a number of reasons such as the geography of the area, difficulties in finding sites following discussions with potential landlords, and delays caused by BT Openreach.
‘To help us to effectively achieve the coverage the country rightly demands, we need government and Ofcom to ensure the policy reforms that underpin our ability to invest in and build mobile network infrastructure are actually delivered, as we were promised last year, so that it doesn’t take an average of 12 months to get the right approvals to position or upgrade a mast/base station.’
Mobile contacted EE, which was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press – Three declined the opportunity to comment.