MPs representing a number of rural constituencies are once again calling for a law to allow customers with poor mobile signal to break contracts with their mobile networks.
The Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland Isles, Alistair Carmichael, has introduced a private members’ bill to Parliament, proposing a change to the law. Carmichael’s ‘Mobile Telecommunications Network Coverage Bill' would give consumers the legal right to leave their mobile phone contact should their service prove to be inadequate.
Speaking to Mobile about his ambitions with the bill, Carmichael said that he wanted mobile networks to view their responsibilities for coverage in contractual terms: ‘Ideally, I want to see the mobile phone companies understand that they have a contractual obligation for consumers living in the whole of the country, and not just those areas that are easy to cover.
‘Until I get satisfaction I’m not going to give up, I have support from MPs across the board. I often speak to the mobile networks, but I’ve found it’s “always a case of jam tomorrow”, they say “we can understand why you’d want to do that Alistair, but we have this and that to do”.’
It’s not the first time that an MP from a Scottish constituency has sought to bring changes to the laws regarding mobile coverage and customer contracts. The SNP has used the considerable power of its 56 Westminster MPs to raise the issue of poor coverage in rural areas.
In the summer, SNP MP Drew Hendry called on the Government to have contract breaks written into Ofcom’s code of practice.
He said that while Carmichael was late in supporting the measure, he believed that cross-party support brought the prospect of poor coverage contract breaks closer to reality: ‘Alistair Carmichael is right – of course – but it is a little late for him to join the campaign, as an MP from a political party that was wiped out in Scotland following five years of disastrous coalition with the Tories. Since I was elected for a large rural constituency I have raised this matter consistently, and am delighted to have secured the support from across political parties and from Ofcom.
‘Businesses and customers across the country want a better level of service and a better deal. This would be a step towards that. If you don’t have a signal, you shouldn’t have to pay – securing the support from the industry regulator is a huge step in making that a reality.’
A spokesperson for the Department for Culture Media & Sport told Mobile that it would be looking at the bill to see if it represented a ‘good deal’.
They said: ‘We will look to see exactly what the bill is proposing. Improving mobile coverage across the UK and ensuring that consumers get a good deal is a priority for the Government. As a result of our agreements with the mobile network operators, there will be significant improvements to mobile coverage by the end of 2017.’