Ofcom publish data every three months about the bigger telecom providers and up until now O2 have attracted the lowest number of complaints, but all that could be about to change. For quite some time now consumer groups have been lobbying to ensure consumers get a fair deal when signing up to mobile phone contracts, in particular signing up to a fixed deal contract only to find that prices kept increasing. So Ofcom brought in new regulations that basically states, if a consumer enters into a contract after 23 January 2014, the mobile phone provider is not able to put up their prices unless they made it clear to you this was the case when you entered into the contract. The operators are also only allowed to do this with recurring monthly charges. If they didn’t, then you should be able to pull out of your contract without attracting any hefty financial penalty clauses.
Consumers receive text to inform them of price increasesSounds all fine and dandy but this week O2 customers were on the receiving end of a text that took many by surprise as they were told their March 2014 bill, for their air time plan only, would increase from £22 to £22.59 due to the increase in inflation. Furthermore, calls and texts over the consumer’s monthly allowance, MMS and International Calls will change also. O2 had been able to manifest this increase because they had revised the terms and conditions of their contracts, but were very careful to make sure customers knew about it.
Increases not “in the spirit” of what consumer watchdog Ofcom intendedOn today’s Radio 4 You and Yours programme, telecom consumer experts discussed whether this increase was really “in the spirit” of what Ofcom had intended. As Ofcom intended to set out regulations to protect consumer interests, this is debatable, plus what happens if inflation goes back down? Will O2 reimburse their customer base?
Consumer champion Winifred Robinson, presenter of You and Yours was on the case and tried to find out if, like the energy companies, the rest of the big telecom providers were going to follow suite. Only three of them told the programme they wouldn’t be doing the same, (no names given at this point) but the others hadn’t at the time of broadcast, amended their terms and conditions. Consumer watchdog Ofcom were not asked for their response so it is not clear whether they will be taking action against O2, who have released a statement explaining the reasons behind the increase. Ofcom are supposed to be focusing on quality and value offered to the consumer by the telecom industry and it was put forward on the programme, that if they felt companies were not being transparent with their customers regarding this change, then they might take action.
If you signed up to a fixed term contract after 23 January because of the changes to regulations and now have been told you have a price increase and you feel your mobile phone operator was not transparent about this then let us know –we’re listening!