Ofcom back consumer's right to cancel T-Mobile contract - but did T-Mobile contact you?

27 October 2009

Bitterwallet - Ofcom logoThe ongoing saga concerning T-Mobile has taken a surprising twist today. For six weeks we've highlighted T-Mobile's refusal to deal fairly with customers, with regards to the service provider's massive increases in the cost of international roaming. The charges form a legitimate part of a customer's contract, but T-Mobile deliberately excluded them from the clauses allowing the right to cancel without penalty - even if they caused material detriment.

Ofcom has today told Bitterwallet that T-Mobile is wrong to do so, in that customers who are likely to suffer material detriment as a result of these increases should be offered the right to cancel without penalty.

On Friday we published correspondence between T-Mobile and Ofcom, which indicated they supported the consumer's right to cancel without charge in this matter. We contacted Ofcom for clarification concerning this and their ongoing investigation:

Bitterwallet: When is Ofcom likely to conclude their deliberations and determine whether an investigation is required?

Ofcom: Ofcom has been monitoring complaints and has discussed the issue with T-Mobile. T-Mobile have confirmed to Ofcom that if customers feel that they are genuinely affected, to their material detriment, by the increase in certain roaming charges then they should call T-Mobile to discuss their account. Customers should ask that their inquiry be escalated to a Customer Service Manager who will discuss the available options. If customers are not content with the outcome of those discussions they can use the Dispute Resolution Scheme. T-Mobile is a member of CISAS.

On this basis we do not intend to open an investigation into T-Mobile on this issue.

Bitterwallet: What is meant by the final line of the statement (published here)? It indicates that Ofcom believes if the changes cause will impact on a customer's bill, then T-Mobile cannot hold them to the existing terms and conditions.

Ofcom: It is our view that if the increased roaming charges are genuinely of material detriment to a consumer then under General Condition 9.3, T-Mobile should inform the Consumer of the ability to terminate the contract without penalty. If T-Mobile and the customer are in dispute over whether or not the increase in charges is of material detriment, then the customer can use the Dispute Resolution Scheme.

So Ofcom have determined T-Mobile should have offered the right to cancel without penalty, but also decided there will be no investigation into the service provider's actions. What does that mean?

First, Ofcom is saying that if you will suffer material detriment - if your bill will increase as a result of the new charges - then T-Mobile should have given you the right to cancel. How do we define material detriment? That's a little trickier - Ofcom told us "there is no set percentage to determine “material detriment” - it is assessed on the particular circumstance of each case."

That's very unhelpful, but because it's so ambiguous we'd suggest it allows two ways to prove the new charges affect you:

  • have you been abroad in the past three months? Check your bills - if 10 per cent (or more) of the total call charges are as a resulting of roaming charges, it's reasonable to assume you will suffer material detriment in the future (we're suggesting 10 per cent because this is an unofficial figure that has been suggested by Ofcom and other service providers to customers in the past)
  • have you made plans to travel abroad in the next three months, or for a significant amount of time while under contract? If so, it's reasonable to assume the new charges will be of material detriment to you

Follow the procedure as stated by Ofcom above, since T-Mobile have told Ofcom they will follow it. If T-Mobile refuse to resolve the issue then contact CISAS for arbitration. Include copies of your bills or travel arrangements that prove the likelihood of material detriment in the future, and a copy of this post too. Therefore, you're providing a) proof of likely material detriment and b) a statement from Ofcom stating that T-Mobile should have offered the right to cancel without penalty in this particular instance. We're not sure how CISAS can rule against you in this situation since Ofcom has clarified its position concerning T-Mobile, but no doubt we'll be surprised. Let us know the outcome - we'd be interested to know what To-Mobile or CISAS define material detriment.

The second point is fundamental to this whole affair: according to Ofcom, T-Mobile should have informed customers of their right to cancel without penalty. But did they? Since material detriment is wide-open to interpretation, how did T-Mobile interpret it? In other words, were there any customers informed of the increased charges and their right to cancel?

Our posts on this story has received several dozen emails and several hundred comments over the past two months, and we don't recall anybody who mentioned this happening. Perhaps nobody at all had travelled or worked abroad recently, but that's very unlikely. Ofcom refused to clarify whether T-Mobile had notified customers, stating "the substance of our discussions with T-Mobile is confidential".

So it's over to you - have you travelled abroad in recent months, and have roaming charges account for 10 per cent of your recent bills? If so, did T-Mobile contact you? At the moment, judging by all of your comments and emails, we can only conclude that nobody was informed of their rights by T-Mobile, that T-Mobile refused customers with valid reasons for cancellation of their right to do so, and that T-Mobile broke Ofcom's General Conditions - in which case, the regulator should reconsider opening an investigation.

TOPICS:   How To Guides

47 comments

  • The B.
    "On this basis we do not intend to open an investigation into T-Mobile on this issue." Or in fact any telecoms provider as we used to work with at least one member of their board and he was a really great guy and he still takes me out and gets me pissed on expenses. Ineffectual bunch of nepotisitic shitewads.
  • Mango
    No success! I explained all points per above that it will be of material detriment, but she wouldn't let me cancel... time to go to CISAS
  • Mango
    t-mob said that they have had 100% success rate with cases that have gone to CISAS regarding this...
  • Paul S.
    Mango - where did that statement come from?
  • jonny
    Got it cancelled yey! Be very strong, and dont say goodbye, dont think they can put the phone down until you do. I havent actually been abroad, but am in the 5th month of a new contract, and told them I plan to travel Europe for the next 7 months, so most of my calls would be made abroad, showed them how this was going make a massive difference to my bill. Had to talk to several operatives, I think they must have just given up because it was home time :)
  • nathan
    t-mobile have told me their legal team have sorted this with ofcom and they are not breaching the terms of contract and said if i like to contract customer relations thanks hopefully i get out of this contract. p.s they also told me that i dont have roaming on my account and im pretty sure that every customer on payg and contract has roaming
  • Mango
    @ jonny are you serious?!?!?! I have incurred roaming calls and they still wouldn't let me cancel!
  • Mango
    @ nathan http://www.t-mobile.co.uk/services/going-abroad/using-phones-abroad/ "Anyone with a T-Mobile phone can use their phone while abroad. It doesn't matter what price plan you're on - even pay as you go. Your phone may be already set up. If not, one quick call to Customer Services on 150 and you're ready to go." so yo DO have roaming already set up!
  • jonny
    Yes, I was on the phone for well over an hour, they tried reducing my bill by £5 but I said I am likely to incur higher costs than this :) Just ordering HTC Hero on Orange :D
  • Patrick
    T-mobile are still holding out. Been told contact Ofcom and then T-mobile and they are refusing to let me speak to a Customer Service manager without some kind of proof from Ofcom. This is still going nowhere a month later!
  • nathan
    anyone been successful in cancelling apart from jonny and what did u say to them?
  • Gareth H.
    hey guys, just got off the phone to t-mobile and i was advised by a guy in the cancellation team that t-mobile have not infringed any terms and conditions and wont cancel my contract. waiting for a callback from the manager now. lets see what they say!
  • Unhelpful
    Spoke to cancellations dept. (call centre in Wales) who couldn't help as they weren't aware of the agreement to cancel without an ETF so asked me to e-mail the customer relations team ([email protected]). E-mailed them at 17.30 and received a callback within 10 minutes (I think this was an Indian call centre) only to be advised that there is no way of cancelling without an ETF. Then called customer services (spoke to a lady with an American accent), who took my details and advised her manager will call me tomorrow. My employment requires me to work in Bangalore and Pune for about 3 months of the year, so the increases will affect me. I only took the contract out in August. I'll report back if I have any luck.
  • No m.
    @Mango “Anyone with a T-Mobile phone can use their phone while abroad. It doesn’t matter what price plan you’re on – even pay as you go. Your phone may be already set up. If not, one quick call to Customer Services on 150 and you’re ready to go.” so yo DO have roaming already set up! Eh? Are you a total idiot? Did you just skim that paragraph, whispering "it doesn't say what I don't want it to say it doesn't say what I don't want it to say..."??? How does the sentence "Your phone may be already set up" tell us that "yo DO have roaming already set up!" You prick. The last thing that paragraph says is that you need to call customer services if it's not set up, MEANING IT MAY NOT BE SET UP. Stop being a pilferring prick and learn to read!
  • Hater
    @ No Luke, I am your mother go suck off you fuckhole...shit-faced cock sucker dickagram asshole superhighway slag master
  • Mango
    @ No Luke, I am your mother Well if you call up t-mobile sales and ask them about roaming, they say it IS always automatically set up (they said this on 5 occasions when I called up for a general enquiry). The extract from their website must just be a disclaimer for people who it is not automatically set up for (e.g. people with lower credit rating). So I am right in saying, “you DO have roaming already set up!” Do your research before commenting you twat
  • raj
    Got straight on the phone to them at 8am, call lasted an hour with no success! The lady just went round in circles saying “additional service” “not material detriment” “ofcom have not contacted us” “we have not breached terms” “you cannot take it to CISAS until 8 weeks” (even though I have a letter from them stating their final position) I proved it would be a material detriment because a) Roaming amount to over 10% of my call charges and b) I am due to travel abroad for a significant time period whilst n contract They just wouldn’t understand. Appears as if they are not following this Ofcom advice…?!
  • No m.
    @Mango You just said yourself that it is possible that roaming may not be set up, and then said that it IS set up. I'm just pointing out that you're contradicting yourself. I'm not pointing out that you're a full-on moronic twat. You're doing that all by yourself.
  • Patrick
    @ no luke, I am your mother. How about you just fuck off and leave the people here who really have an issue and want to discuss the t-mobile cancellation instead of trying to be a bighead and just ending up looking like a complete prick, cheers.
  • Kamatari
    Just been on the phone to t-mobile trying to cancel and they said they have no control over the price increases as its out of their hands and that all the other phone networks are going through the same thing. Is there any other way to get them to budge?
  • Unhelpful
    Didn't receive a call back from T-Mobile as per my previous post so just called them back (the ones with an American accent) and after 30 minutes of complaining about how difficult it has been to speak to someone with any knowledge of the saga between Ofcom, T-Mobile, their customers and International Roaming charges, I have been SUCCESSFUL in cancelling my contract without a early termination fee. I must point out that I have 8 months left of my 12 month contract, so the EFT only amounted to £223. Contract will end on 28/11 as 30 days notice had to be given.
  • raj
    @ Unhelpful really??? thats great! what did you say to make them cancel?
  • Patrick
    @unhelpful, what was the number for the american people who sorted it for you? Was it just 150 then cancellations dept? Because I've had no lick calling 3 different centres.
  • Patrick
    make that 4 call centres. No one has any idea as they are still repeating the same crap thy gave us a month ago about it all being additional. Why the he'll doesn't t-mobile inform it's call centres.
  • Mango
    Feels like I’m one on the unlucky ones. Anyone who has had success, please post it so we all have a clear picture of success rates. Cheers.
  • Unhelpful
    Dial 150, option 5 then option 4. My circumstances are that I am out the UK in India for 3-4 months of the year (working as an auditor) so this increase will affect me. I complained that I had called them 3-4 times, e-mailed them at [email protected] and had not been called back and demanded that something was done immediately I asked to speak to a customer service manager who eventually took the call, offering me a few options but after some persistence, agreed to waive the ETF and commence the cancellation procedure.
  • Patrick
    this is exactly the same steps I have taken except they NEVER allow me to speak to a manager they simply speak to them themselves and reiterate the same rubbish.
  • Patrick
    Talked to a customer service manger finally, but she still had no idea but said she would consult the legal team tomorrow in office hours and get back to me, I don't have particularly high hopes if I'm honest!
  • dunfyboy
    The email addy I've been using (on an unrelated matter) is [email protected] - give it a try if you're not getting a reply from the [email protected] one. My problem has been my 6 week old phone keeps freezing, have to keep taking the battery out to get it working again (almost a daily occurrence). Either that or the signal indicator in the top corner jams (and it usually fluctuates constantly) and unless I notice it hasn't moved it means I get no reception. Also, despite being a "Multimedia" phone (it's a LG Arena) it's temperamental about which mp3s it will play (I don't mean i've some dodgy codecs, I mean sometimes it will play files A, B & C other times only file A). There's some other issues too but T Mobile just keep emailing back saying the reception in my area is fine, I reply saying I know, it's the phone that's to blame, they reply saying the reception in my area is fine. Now they want me to take the issues up with LG, but aren't I right in thinking that under the sale of Goods Act my contract is with them, not the manufacturer? Obviously I mean the contract to supply the phone, not the airtime contract :) Any advice gratefully accepted. I was only advised of the new roaming charges by text on the 16th. I don't have the text as the phone deleted it when I tried to save it but T Mobile confirmed the date. I reckon I should just cancel the whole thing either through the SOG as the phone isn't as advertised, up to a reasonable standard or through this as I don't fancy paying extra every time I'm abroad. Or Both!
  • Nirave
    No such luck as yet. Waiting for a team manager to contact their Legal Team tomorrow and come back to me. Not really holding any hope but they went from you can't cancel to "if Ofcom said that then we need to look into it!" so let's see how it goes!
  • Paul
    Received an email last night from T-Mobile stating "We believe the change is not of material detriment to you. The roaming service we offer is classed as an additional service. As set out in the terms and conditions of your contract we can increase the charge for an additional service after giving you written notice 30 days before the change." I have responding quoting both Ofcom and the Unfair Contracts blurbs, will wait and see what their next response is.
  • T-Mobile B.
    [...] your comments and emails we hadn’t seen any evidence of this occurring, so we suggested how you could move your complaint forward. In situations where customers cannot resolve their complaint with T-Mobile, service providers are [...]
  • Nirave
    I just had a phone call from a Customer Services manager who tried to offer me the Traveller option to bring calls received down to £1/month. First he offered it for 3 months, then 6 months, then remainder of contract (like 14 months). Refused to accept it and said I want ETF waived. He said he will discuss with legal team and come back to me next week. Anyone else with any other news?
  • moose
    nirave you got further than me the woman wasnt giving me anything she just kept talking about how she had the rite and said that if i wanted to take it any further then i should look into it but she was soo annoying and blatantly wasnt listning..
  • Nirave
    @moose, Yeh that's true but its all about who you speak to!
  • abloke
    I am a manager in T-Mobile and this is the first i have heard of any of this and am very surprised that anyone has managed to cancel account without ETF (on the other hand it doesn't surprise me if it was an offshore call centre). We are usually the first to be notified of an issue whereupon we may be required to cancel an account without ETF. I have to admit if any of you guys came through to me i would not be waiving anything. Will be checking this out when i'm back at work.
  • torryy
    has anyone gotten anywhere with this? i was meant to get a call back today but i got a call from t-mobile trying to sell me mobile interent instead. @ abloke...i complained to ofcom about t-mobile like a month ago and they didnt know anything then..but i contacted them two days ago and they have decided that it does fall under general condition 9.3. i think now its up to you and t-mobile to keep up to date, as im sure its braking the law as ur just ignoring facts.
  • what n.
    is anyone still fighting it out with t-mobile i sent them an e-mail and they called me apparently according to thier legal team they havent broken general condition 9.3 or whatever...i i told them what ofcom have said and my ofcom "i.d" and they said that they wont bother looking into it as its not up to them to look etc etc
  • raj
    @ what next yeah i'm still fighting this! keep on their case, once 8 weeks has passed from your original complaint take it to CISAS. If CISAS find roaming to be an additional service then your contract is unfair under The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999. Ofcom have advised T-Mobile that if Roaming is a material detriment then T-Mobile should cancel under general terms of contract (see previous BW posts) Get Ofcom’s position in writing… If you can prove material detriment (travel documents etc.) provide this with your CISAS application with Ofcom’s decision and all should be a happy ending. Nothing to loose by taking to CISAS
  • anyone t.
    hey has anyone got further raj? how far you gotten with cisas? can people who have failed/ succeeded write on here saying what theyve done. ive exhausted theyre complaints prosedure but they still refuse to send me a deadlock letter!
  • Jed
    i am fighting t-mobile, my cisas has come through, need to fill it in and submit!
  • Fahd
    Alright guys, I just picked up on this today...seen a few people have been successful but the majority not - anybody have any tips on how to go about this? I've e-mailed them, was told to phone, phoned them and was told to fuck off basically. I'm willing to take this all the way, really detest T-Mobile, their shitty customer service/shitty network coverage when I was promised "very good 3G coverage" in my area and indian callcentre's employing shit staff who don't have a clue about phones(I have no problems with indian callcentre's, there are plenty of them who do an amazing job...T-Mobile just seem to have recruited a bunch of idiots). Really regret moving from O2, i'm currently 12 months through an 18 month contract. Thanks in advance...
  • richjb78
    Just been on the phone to a customer services operator who constantly refused to cancel it without an ETF, he was "100% sure" that t-mobile were within their rights to do this as they were seperate things. Just sent an email to [email protected] and got a reply within 15 mins saying a member of the complaint investigations team will call me back with 5 working days. Getting really peeved off with it all now.
  • dawn c.
    my son has a t.mobile cotract phone which was stolen /lost in aug we have now just been hit with a bill from debt collectors phoned t.mobile was very clever on phone and was more interested in arguing with myself and my son we did everything we needed to do we call instantley and also reported it to car phone wearhouse we never had any reply from aug and just prosumed that things were sorted because we never got another phone we have all family members on t.mobile and this is our first ever problem but i will make it my last never felt so umiliated in all my life as they made me feel and also took great satisfaction in telling me that my son will be black listed from now disgused with them please help us resolve this problem many thanks
  • andy
    they where meant to send me a deadlock letter 30 days ago! this company is by far one of the worst ive dealt with and im only bothering with it because i reallywant to hear what they say when i win because i actually asked about roaming charges before joining and therfore showed that the cheap roaming charges was something that made me want to join t-mobile also the fact that if they had told me on the 7th of sept (when they hfound out about the price change) i would have been able to cancel because it was within the 14 day limit
  • Karen J.
    Nice article on these agreements. I am working on a project to find out about these unfair credit agreements and this has helped
  • Josh
    We recently moved to an area where we get absolutely no cell phone, texting or internet service and have notified T-Mobile of this, but, of course, the deactivation fee will not be waived. They basically called us a liar and insisted we DO get service according to their GPS system. I told them to send a representative up here to verify the lack of phone service in this area, but, of course, they will not. We are stuck paying for phone service that does not work and with a company that does not care about customer service ... all they want is their money. Not having service up here has proved problematic for my family and we have already had an emergency situation with my wife's car being stranded on her way home from work and no cell phone service to alert anyone. She had to walk to someone's house, borrow their phone and call for help. What if it had been a life/death emergency situation, which I posed to T-Mobile, but their representative didn't care and kept repeating himself over and over that it isn't their policy to waive the deactivation fee and continually kept saying we DO have service where we now live ... basically calling us liars. We will never go back to T-Mobile ... I have never seen such poor customer service and uncaring attitudes about people's lives in my life from a company. I am at a loss as what to do now about this dilemma. Any suggestions?

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