Fixed Must Mean Fixed on Mobile Phone Contracts Says UK Consumer Watchdog
The UK consumer affairs organisation, Which? has launched a new 'Fixed Means Fixed' campaign calling for an end to price increases on 'fixed' mobile phone contracts.
An investigation by the company revealed that many mobile operators use clauses hidden in the small-print to increase rates during the contract period. They claim that their research found 70% of people on fixed contracts did not know that mobile phone companies could increase prices during the length of their contract.
They estimate that these price hikes could be netting the industry up to £90 million in a year.
Hutchison 3G UK has been accused of being the latest mobile operator to use this tactic, increasing its 'fixed' prices by 3.6% which will affect over 1 million customers. Mobile operators, including Vodafone, T Mobile and Orange, have hit consumers with a series of price rises over the last year all on 'fixed' contracts. In all these cases consumers have been unable to cancel their contracts without paying a penalty.
Which? has submitted a complaint to the telecoms regulator, Ofcom, asking the regulator to urgently investigate this issue and rule that 'fixed means fixed'. If there is a chance that prices may rise, operators must be more upfront about this in their advertising and allow people to switch providers without penalty.
Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, says: "These hidden price rises mean millions of people are forced to pay more than they expected at a time when household budgets are already squeezed. They are then trapped in a contract, unable to switch to a cheaper provider without paying a hefty penalty.
"Ofcom must intervene now and stamp this out. Consumers must be confident that fixed really does mean fixed."
This campaign has been driven by over 1,700 comments from consumers about increases to 'fixed' contracts on our Which? Conversation website.