Posts Tagged ‘contract’
It’s not often we get to shout about an industry regulator playing a blinder, but all hats are off to Ofcom, who yesterday confirmed that telecommunications providers who offer fixed fee contracts cannot change the price in any way during the contract without allowing customers to walk away penalty-free.
Ofcom are not changing the rules, merely their interpretation of them, and current rules state that customers cannot suffer a price increase that would be ‘materially detrimental’ to customers. Ofcom now says that any price increase (their emphasis) will count as materially detrimental, which will therefore include the inflationary, or inflation-plus rises that many mobile phone providers build into their contracts. The only permissible increases will be those relating to VAT rate changes or other mandatory legal requirements.
Clearly providers are not going to be thrilled about this new regime, which will take effect in three months’ time and will apply to landline, broadband and mobile contracts, and the sneakier among them might have already planned to reduce inclusive minutes/texts etc rather than changing the headline price. Fortunately Ofcom is ahead of them there as well, stating “reducing the call and/or text and/or data allowance included in a customer’s monthly subscription price…[would be considered] a price increase – as consumers would be getting less for the same money.” The guidance does not apply to out-of-bundle costs, however, such as additional minutes/data, the prices of which can be increased at will.
From now on, providers will have to give personal and small business customers 30 days prominent notice and make it very clear that customers may exit the contract without penalty before the price change takes effect.
This is a coup for consumers (and Which! are also taking the credit for their “fixed is fixed” campaign) who can now be certain that the price they pay will not change for the length of their contract, or that they are free to leave if things do change.
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.”
Which! executive spokesman Richard Lloyd said:
“Today’s announcement from Ofcom is an overwhelming victory for the 59,000 people who joined our campaign calling for fixed to mean fixed on mobile phone contracts. Consumers told us price hikes on fixed contracts were unfair, and now people will be able to leave these contracts and switch to a cheaper provider without being hit by extortionate exit fees.”
Since Ocado did a dirty deal with Morrisons behind Waitrose’s back, Waitrose boss Mark Price is refusing to speak to them. He may even stay in his bedroom for the whole day, apart from to go to the toilet and get a bowl of cornflakes from the kitchen.
Sulky Ronnie Barker lookalike Mark hasn’t replied to any emails or calls made by Ocado’s CEO Tim Steiner. ‘It’s a joke,’ said Tim, who tied up the deal with Morrisons last week. ‘Ocado has gone from a toddler to an unruly teenager. Now we are an adult,’ said Steiner. ‘Sometimes the parent doesn’t like it when the child grows up.’
Waitrose just turned up its System of A Down album and slammed the door, saying that they have to consult their lawyers on the matter. They warned that they would be studying the Morrison’s deal carefully to see if there had been a breach of contract. Until that was completed, they wouldn’t contact Ocado or meet up with them in the skate park – I mean, boardroom.
Steiner says that the deal will be good for Waitrose because it means the company will finally be financially secure, but he also thinks that Waitrose has been shaken by the tie up with Morrisons.
On Wednesday, Waitrose said they WOULD meet Ocado, but only if it promised to bring Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and stop going on about how great Morrisons is. Let’s hope these two sort it out before an adult gets involved.
Those mild mannered unwaxed lemon peddlers Waitrose are more stressed out than Pippa Middleton on column deadline day – thanks to Ocado.
Waitrose’s delivery partner Ocado, which is entirely dependent on Waitrose for its business, wish to revive their fortunes (remember, the company has NEVER made a profit) by doing a deal with Morrisons. DUH! *conflict of interest face*
Morrison’s are the only UK supermarket not to offer a delivery service, and they’re going down faster than Eric Pickles on a bungee cord. But Waitrose – who I like to imagine is run by a team of cosy Delia types who have Keep Calm and Carry on aprons and freeze their herbs in an ice cube tray – have opposed the Morrison’s deal in the strongest terms.
‘I would never knowingly sign a contract with Ocado that agreed to them working with another retail competitor,’ said Waitrose’s managing director Mark Price. He also revealed that Waitrose were going to launch an online delivery service in direct competition with Ocado.
Then he said:
‘We have moved to defcon one [on online expansion] because we don’t know where this is going to end up and we are now working on adding considerable extra capacity to Waitrose.com.’
WAITROSE DEFCON ONE! Quick! Let’s hide under a pile of organic quinoa until it all blows over…
You may or may not know that Samsung have just unveiled their new super-cool Galaxy S3 phone, and it’s been very well-received by those who have had a play with it (not us – they didn’t let us near one, not after the last time).
But, in an attempt to prove that we’re not bitter, we’re happy to point you in the direction of a guide to the best S3 contract deals, as collated by avid HotUKDeals user faiz123.
Redemption deals and tariffs with low data allowances have been omitted, so get over to HUKD, have a sniff about and get your order in before the phone is launched at the end of the month.
Remember when Orange caused mild outrage towards the end of last year when they put up the price of their pay-monthly tariff? But, it was all legal and above board because the price hike was just below the retail price index and customers were unable to cancel their contracts as a result.
Well now, buoyed by the success of that sneaky little trick, Orange’s partners in Everything Everywhere, T-Mobile, are also increasing their pay-monthly prices, by 3.7% from 9th May. Again, as it’s a figure that is lower than the RPI, there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them.
Customers who had joined T-Mobile before 1st February will be affected, but those on You Fix, Full Monty and other currently-marketed plans won’t be as those tariffs already have the price increase built into them.
Although it seems like a massive liberty, T-Mobile say that on a £15 plan, the increase will mean an extra 55p per month for their customers. Fair enough, or devious and underhand. You tell us.
Tasting menus are the stuff of legend. Course upon course piled up on your table, and a bill at the end of the night that’s just as meaty. A new concept restaurant in the US has taken the tasting menu to the extreme, and will serve you nothing other than a 16 or 24 course tasting menu – but only if you sign a two-page contract beforehand.
What do you have to agree to before tucking into your grub at Rogue 24 in Washington DC? Well, you have to leave your mobile at home – phones are barred. Cameras aren’t allowed either, so that diners are “able to enjoy the experiences that surround them at Rogue24 free of distraction”.
What else? If reservations are cancelled after 3 pm on the day, then you’ll be charged a 100% cancellation fee. If you turn up later than 30 minutes for your booking, your reservation will be cancelled – and then you’ll be charged a 100% cancellation fee, too.
It’s the kind of shock bullshit that suits and show-offs will be milking themselves over – expect the restaurant to be rammed to the rim every night with pretentious la la’s fawning over a green drizzle of flecky snot on a plate.
Orange have had a neat idea. They’ve launched a tariff that combines the iPhone and iPad, starting from a £99 charge with a £65 per month contract. That’s not too bad is it?
This ‘Connected’ plan gives Orange customers the chance to get their grubby mitts on an iPhone 4 and the iPad 2 3G, in one bundle.
The contract covers minutes, texts and data and will take £1,659 out of your bank account over a 24 month contract, giving you a 2GB data allowance as well as 600 minutes and unlimited texts for iPhone use. This deal gets you the 16GB versions of the devices. Larger GB versions are available, at a higher price.
Also, you’ll need to be an existing Orange customer to get in on this deal, otherwise you’ll have to fork out a further £50 as a one-off payment.
Still, it is cheaper than buying the two devices separately, though the major problem with this deal is, thanks to the contract being one that covers 24 months, there’s a very good chance your gadgets will be hugely out of date by the end of it.
Avid Bitterwallet reader Anthony has been in touch about Orange changing the pricing of specific premium rate numbers, following a text he received from the service provider:
Hi from Orange. From 1 Mar we’re making some changes to the charges for calling 09 premium rate numbers. Go to orange.co.uk/09 for more info
Anthony has asked if this is a change to the terms and conditions of his contract – can such a change trigger the right to cancel a contract without material?
The current charges for 09 premium rate numbers are between 51p and £1.74 per minute. Rather helpfully, Orange’s link to the new premium rates results in a 404 error, but we’ll assume Orange are increasing, rather than decreasing the charges.
A quick look at the Terms of a typical Pay Monthly contract states that the Inclusive Minutes element means calls to UK landlines (numbers beginning with 01, 02 or 03) and UK mobile numbers only. Premium rate numbers are typically not inclusive and attract an additional charge to any minimum monthly tariff.
In other words, any increase in premium rate numbers does not affect the core terms of your contract – you can still receive the minimum service Orange promised to deliver without having you to pay more every month. Therefore, we don’t think there’s a right to cancel without fee in this instance.
We got to hand it to you, Vodafone. You are outrageous.
We don’t mean that in a manner that might be considered complimentary or fun, for example when used by housewives to describe another housewife on stage with her mouth down the thong of a male stripper.
No, we mean you’re outrageous in the sense that you treat your customers unfairly and with the vacuous morals of a particularly disreputable cockroach.
The story is well documented; Vodafone decided to introduce a capped data limit to existing mobile contracts with a Fair Usage Policy, which allowed customers to occasionally exceed the 500MB limit without necessarily being charged. The new capped limit means customers will be automatically charged £5 every time they exceed 500MB from 1 October, and £5 per additional 500MB after that. Although Vodafone vehemently denied this was a change to their Terms and Conditions, they offered customers a route to cancellation-without-fee anyway – something they’re only required to offer if there’s a change to Terms and Conditions. Er.
We offered plenty of help, advice and letter templates, and we’re pleased to say many eligible customers have cancelled their contracts without paying out the reminder of it. But Vodafone are also refusing eligible requests, too. Bitterwallet reader Matt attempted to cancel his contract after reviewing his data usage:
• September - 570MB (unbilled usage so far this month)
• August – 366MB
• July – 655MB
• June – 642MB
• May – 611MB
Matt explains the drop in August’s usage was due to issues with his handset’s battery, but it doesn’t matter – it’s clear that Matt is the type of customer that will have to pay more than he agreed when he contracted with Vodafone. Matt contacted Vodafone using our cancellation template, and Vodafone duly sent his PAC code via text – and then a letter explaining he would have to pay out the remainder of the contract.
But what’s really gutless about Vodafone’s handling in this and, we presume other instances, is that Vodafone doesn’t explain their reason behind their decision – or provide any contact details that might allow Matt to dispute the decision. No email address, no telephone number, nothing. You can see the letter for yourself here.
So in the month immediately before Vodafone introduces the data cap, Matt will exceed 500MB. In four of the past five months, Matt has exceeded 500MB. Yet he’ll now have to pay £5 per month on top of his £25 tariff – an increase of 20 per cent – without Vodafone explaining why.
A couple of Virgin Mobile customers (thanks to avid readers Andrew and Toby) have tipped us off to the network’s changes in pricing for local and national calls from 28 June. Customers have been receiving texts pointing them to this online statement:
A quick check against the current standard charges shows these changes to be an increase of 60 per cent:
We’ve been asked if these changes are grounds for customers to cancel their contracts free-of-charge; the answer is yes, but only in specific instances. Here are the relevant clauses from Virgin Mobile’s Terms of Service for Pay Monthly customers:
5.3 Significant changes: We will notify you at least one month in advance of any change coming into effect that (in our reasonable opinion):
(b) is a change to your Agreement, your Contract Allowance, the Services or any Additional Services you are using, or to the Charges for any Services or Additional Services you are using, which is likely to be of material detriment to you.
5.4 Non acceptance of changes: If you do not accept a change that falls within clause 5.3 you may cancel this Agreement by writing to us within 1 month of us telling you about any change, to let us know that you want to cancel.
What this means is if you call local and national numbers enough that the charges you pay are significant (Ofcom’s rule-of-thumb is 10 per cent of your overall bill), then you have grounds to cancel your contract without penalty. How this is calculated is more open to interpretation; some mobile providers assess your eligibility based on the previous month’s bill, some on the previous quarter.
If you think you might be eligible and want to cancel your Virgin Mobile contract, then be prepared before speaking to customer services. Review your last three itemised bills, and highlight all calls with local and national toll prefixes – there are more of them than you might think, so check the full list here. Add up the charges for all these calls, and if this is more than 10 per cent of your total bill before VAT, you have the right to cancel your contract without paying additional charges.
Have everything to hand when you call customer services, including your bills and the relevant terms of your contract (which you’ll find above). As always, be firm but polite if you choose to cancel; dickish behaviour rarely helps matters. And of course, ask yourself if it’s worth cancelling; check the mobile deals available with cashback on Quidco.
Remember, you only have until 28 June if you want to cancel; after this date, it’ll be assumed you have accepted the changes.
This thread has been bobbing about on Hot UK Deals for a couple of weeks but we’ve just noticed it; there is a dial-through number for Orange contract customers to get free international calls to any country from the UK included in your inclusive minutes.
Some other details:
- You need to have an Orange contract
- It needs to have a free inclusive minutes package
- Inclusive minutes still need to be available when making the call, and the call length comes out of those minutes
- Don’t make calls longer than the inclusive minutes available
The poster of the information, zigs71, promises there’ll be no retribution for using the number, only that the service will be discontinued at some point.
We can’t make you the same assurances and won’t vouch for the claims made, but you can read more information about the hack for yourself (and get the number in question) on Hot UK Deals. If you try it, remember to let us know how you get on.
We know how it is. You sign a new contract, pick a new handset. Then it all goes horribly wrong. You lose your job. You didn’t check network coverage where you live. Another mobile provider brings out a better tariff. It happens all the time.
Sad stories, all of them. But Bitterwallet can’t really help you out.
It’s not that we don’t want to. We’re probably receiving half a dozen emails a week from Orange customers. Some have genuine issues with Orange – in those cases we’ll either highlight their plight or pass them on to Orange. As far as the rest are concerned, we do our best to email back and explain that no, you can’t cancel a contract – consumer law covers many things, but not the right to a nicer handset when you feel like one. Some examples:
I have been told by Orange that I can only consider upgrading in November 2011. That is the first issue I have, the second one is that I have never seen, read, or signed any contract whatsoever.
The reason I want to cancel my contract, besides the obvious misleading me in the sales process, and denying me the right to the handset I actually wanted, I literally just cannot afford it any longer.
Yo, I read you can cancal my contract with Orange. I’m bored with my Nokia N95 and a button is broke (can’t call numbers with 6 in them) if I give you my number can you call Orange and cancal my contract?
hi just read article on orange increased charges for going over your allowence dated end of last year i have two contracts taken out before the increase what i want to know is can i write to them requesting to cancell them with no further payments to be made can you please advise thanks
Look, we’re not taking the piss, but for avoidance of doubt, anything we wrote about cancelling your Orange contract last year isn’t necessarily relevant now. Nor do we offer to call Orange and cancel your contract on your behalf, and nor is choosing yourself a crappy phone any sort of justification for wanting to quit. Cheers!
Yesterday we highlighted Vodafone’s dramatic scrapping of their Fair Use Policy for mobile data, and merry hell has been played ever since. The changes to customer contracts will reverse the long standing policy of a ‘soft’ 500MB-per-month limit for mobile phone customers, a policy that meant customers weren’t penalised for occasionally straying over that limit, and one had been confirmed in writing on numerous occasions by Vodafone staff.
From 1 June, however, customers will be charged for any and all data usage above 500MB, thereby ending any notion of a Fair Use Policy. The news broke in Vodafone’s own forums on Wednesday; customers weren’t told of the changes to the terms or the new charges beforehand. Vodafone went on to tell customers they had no choice but to accept the changes:
But then at 5pm last night, Vodafone stated the exact opposite on their forums, admitting there would be changes to the core agreement of customer’s policies, and that some may qualify for a refund:
Here are the answers to the questions you’ve raised.
Definition of excessive use?
Excessive use is listed in the current Terms and Conditions and applies for now, but when Out Of Bundle charging is introduced, the terms will be amended and so this won’t apply.
Will I be allowed to cancel my account under Clause 7?
We’ ll be giving you 14 days’ notice before introducing Out Of Bundle charging which complies with clause 7a. You’ll be entitled to end your contract if you can show that the introduction of the new charges has increased your total call and usage charges by more than 10%. This needs to be compared to the same amount of usage in the previous month. You must also write to us within the 14 day window indicating that you want to end your contract. (Address: Vodafone UK, Vodafone House, The Connection, Newbury, Berkshire RG14 2FN).
So let’s take a look at this statement:
The ‘current Terms and Conditions’ mentioned are the Vodafone Your Plan Price Plan Terms we referred to yesterday; these form part of your core agreement with Vodafone, as the terms clearly state – that means they do not govern any additional or ‘out of bundle’ services, but those services bundled into your monthly price plan. It also means that changes to these core terms and services can allow customers to cancel their contract without penalty; something you can’t do if a service is ‘out of bundle’.
Nowhere in these terms is there a ‘definition of excessive use’, although it has been defined in writing by Vodafone themselves on numerous occasions, as we mentioned yesterday. The phrase is only referred to in Clause 27:
27. All Vodafone services offered free or under unlimited subscription are subject to our Fair Use Policy. If, in the reasonable opinion of Vodafone, your use is excessive, we may ask you to moderate your usage. If, after we have asked you to moderate your usage, you fail to do so, we reserve the right to:
(a) charge you for the excessive element of your usage at your price plan’s standard rate;
What Vodafone said in yesterday’s statement is that the ‘terms will be amended and so this won’t apply.’ In other words, they are going to remove an entire clause from the contract you agreed – the Fair Use Policy – which represents a significant and material change to your core agreement.
Next, when should Vodafone have told you this? According to them, they can give you 14 days notice of the change, and refer you to Clause 7a in the Pay Monthly Airtime Terms – another core part of your agreement with them. In fact Vodafone have been selective in their quotation of the terms, because a closer look at Clause 7 reveals:
7 Changing charges and terms
a We may change our charges or introduce new charges. If we increase our charges, we will give you at least 14 days’ notice and you may have a right to end this agreement under clause 11. If we believe any change in our charges will not disadvantage you, we may include it without telling you.
b We can make changes to or withdraw services at any time and we can make changes to or introduce new terms to this agreement at any time. We will give you at least 30 days’ notice of these changes if we do and you may have a right to end this agreement under clause 11.
Vodafone are introducing mandatory data charges, so they’ve chosen to interprete their own terms to mean they can give you 14 days notice. However they’ve already admitted they’re changing the terms of your core agreement in order to introduce these charges; “changes to… terms to this agreement” require 30 days’ notice according to 7b, and therefore by not telling customers (the only announcement has been in an online forum so far, for changes due on 1 June) Vodafone are in breach of contract.
Finally, let’s look at the relevant sections of Clause 11:
11.2. You may end this Agreement by writing to us if:
(c) we increase your Charges in the UK which have the effect of increasing your total call and usage charges (based upon your usage in the previous month) by more than 10% and you write to us before the increase takes effect; or
(d) we change this Agreement to your significant disadvantage including the change or withdrawal of Services (we will tell you if this is the case) and you write to us within one month of us telling you about the change. This does not apply where the change relates to Services which can be cancelled without termination of this Agreement.
In both statements on the matter (here and here) Vodafone have stated they are ‘introducing Out of bundle charging’ – they’re not increasing charges, they’re introducing them. There’s a question as to whether Clause 7c is even relevant in the first place – it simply does not refer to the ‘introduction of new charges’ as Vodafone states in their latest statement, and instead refers to existing charges you’ve already agreed to as part of your core agreement, charges governed by a Fair Use Policy which didn’t see customers automatically charged for excess data use.
Clause 11d, however, is absolutely relevant – Vodafone are changing your agreement and it will cause a significant disadvantage; Vodafone is restricting your future use of your handset. Without a Fair Use Policy, you can no longer use data on your handset without the possibility of being forced to pay an additional amount or having to curtail your usage. You won’t be able to use data-intensive applications that may mean occasionally using more than 500MB, like Spotify or Google Maps Navigation, or any similar apps released between June and the end of your contract, which in some cases is 23 months away. The difference between the occasional use of additional data and wholescale abuse has until now being distinct, a distinction embodied by a Fair Use Policy and repeated by Vodafone staff over and over again.
So to be clear what’s happening here; Vodafone are attempting to remove a key clause from your contract, without your consent, thereby removing all the benefits that clause has previously allowed, without your consent, and replace it with mandatory charges, after breaching their own contract by not providing the agreed amount of notice. The statements they have released, and those made on Twitter yesterday, are incorrect by the letter of their own terms.
Of course Vodafone need to consider all their customers and manage data usage in a fair manner. But why do this to exisiting customers? Why not introduce the changes for new customers and move on? If you’ve dealt with Vodafone concerning this matter, let us know how you got on, and we’ll look into escalating matters further.
The T-Mobile cancellation saga is still rumbling on with the mobile provider still refusing to allow customers to cancel their contracts following the recent steep hike in international roaming charges, even though it seems blindingly obvious that the T-Mob don’t have a frigging leg to stand on.
Some of you have been using our template letters and are being stonewalled by T-Mobile’s refusal to back down over this one. If you’re serious about trying to cancel your contract, it’s probably well worth digging in and locking horns with them.
Out of the blue, we’ve received a fresh quote from a spokesperson at communications regulator Ofcom, which should help clarify how you can escalate your grievance with T-Mobile. Ofcom said:
“We are aware of the changes to T-Mobile’s roaming charges and we are looking into the matter to determine whether any further action is appropriate. In the meantime, you may find it useful to know that Communications Providers in the UK are required to implement and comply with an Ofcom approved independent Alternative Dispute Resolution Scheme (ADR) for the resolution of disputes between the Communications Provider and its domestic and small business customers, in relation to the provision of public electronic communications services (where a small business is one with 10 or fewer employees/volunteers).
T-Mobile is a member of CISAS which is based at:
24 Angel Gate
London EC1V 2PT
Tel: 020 7520 3827
Fax: 020 7520 3829
If you have exhausted the T-Mobile complaints procedure and you remain unhappy, you should request that T-Mobile sends you a letter which outlines their final position. This is known as a ‘deadlock’ letter. Once you have received this, you will be able to take the dispute to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme, in this case CISAS. You are also able to take your dispute to an ADR scheme if it remains unresolved after a period of 8 weeks after the date which you first complained.”
So there’s some fresh advice straight from the people who should ultimately be able to decide whether or not T-Mobile are going back on the complicated wording in their contract. We’ve got a feeling this one’s going to rumble on for a while longer yet. Keep us up to speed with how your battles with T-Mobile pan out…