Cancelling your Orange contract - what does the law say?

11 August 2009

UPDATE: Orange has now scrapped the ToS change following consumer upset and cancellations. Existing cancellations will stand. Read full update and official statement here. All day, we've been receiving emails and reading comments concerning your attempts to cancel your Orange contract. Tomorrow, we'll be providing you with a more definitive guide detailing what action to take if your efforts have so far proved unsuccessful. Until then, the Bitterwallet and Mobot team has been digging through consumer law to ascertain where you stand.

That said, this post shouldn't be taken as legal advice for your particular situation, nor is it a substitute for the real thing. As with everything we've posted so far, this is general information. We're not lawyers or solicitors, and despite what we might tell you when we're drunk, we're not pilots or porn stars either.

Right then. The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 (UTCCR) apply to unfair terms in contracts concluded between a consumer and a seller of goods or a supplier of services. By the UTCCR an unfair term is one which has not been properly negotiated (such as a standard term) and which, contrary to good faith, causes a significant imbalance in favour of the seller or supplier. Any term which is unfair is not binding on the consumer, but the rest of the contract may continue in operation if it is capable of continuing without it.

Now the interesting stuff. Section 5 and Schedule 2 of the UTCCR sets out a non-exhaustive list of terms considered unfair:

  • (i) irrevocably binding the consumer to terms with which he had no real opportunity of becoming acquainted before the conclusion of the contract;
  • (j) enabling the seller or supplier to alter the terms of the contract unilaterally without a valid reason which is specified in the contract;
  • (l) providing for the price of goods to be determined at the time of delivery or allowing a seller of goods or supplier of services to increase their price without in both cases giving the consumer the corresponding right to cancel the contract if the final price is too high in relation to the price agreed when the contract was concluded;

We think customers have a good argument that the new minimum charges applying to all calls from 14 September 2009 that exceed their call plan allowance are unfair under the terms of these regulations. The change occurred after the contract, no valid reason is given, the final price is high. And this is not a severable part of the contract, it actually goes to the very heart of it. These regulations are clear that if that if the price is increased, then a corresponding right must be given to allow the consumer to cancel the contract. This right to cancel must also be fair - and so have been bought to the consumer’s attention before the contract was concluded – and so cannot now be unilaterally amended or added to, or be given an unnatural interpretation.

There are also concerns with regards to the Unfair Contract Terms Act of 1977 and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, but we need to you stay alert for the next bit.

With regards to Orange's Terms of Service:

The clear language of clause 15 entitles you to terminate on a change in charges if excessive in accordance with clause 4.3, provided you do so within 1 month of being told of them.

The clause refers to Charges – not Service or Price Plans – so on its very face the right to terminate applies to Out of Service Plan Charges. These minimum charges apply to all calls from 14 September 2009 other than service plan calls. These ordinary calls are not severable from the services as a whole and we certainly don't think they fall within the definition of Additional Services. Obviously we're of the opinion that the increase is excessive and is a change to your detriment. Only a court can say so definitively however.

Arguably even those still within their Minimum Terms can cancel, without having to pay the total remaining monthly charges to the end of the notice period. It's not entirely clear from the language of the contract however and there is a risk that a claim might still be made for damages for termination or breach (i.e. the usual termination charges under clause 4.2). Only a court can finally determine the correct interpretation.

Finally, you don't ever need anyone's consent to terminate a contract. You can always terminate a contract and stop your direct debit by informing your bank. The issue is whether or not you will be liable for damages for breach, and that depends on the contract language. If you terminate and Orange does not agree to it, then they may claim damages for breach - usually any standard monthly charge to the end of the notice period or until the end of any Minimum Term less a rebate for early payment.

And relax. Got that? Good. More tomorrow.

TOPICS:   Mobile   How To Guides

33 comments

  • RATTY
    Nice one Paul, thanks.
  • James
    Just a thought: is it theoretically possible for a penny-pinching scrounger to take out a new Orange contract and then almost immediately cancel it when informed of the changes? Or do all new Orange contracts as of a few days ago include the amendments?
  • iainoco
    All new contracts were amended from 1st June 2009. These cancellations are for existing customers who will be effected by the pricing amendments.
  • salma
    hey i ve been callinsg since yesterday and being given the same reply saying i m not eligible as i don t qualify. rang first thing this morning and got through to a guy who was cancelling for me and my battery died!!!!!!!! called back but was told there was no record of this call being made and im still not eligible. the guy very rudely said" i guarntee you will not get it cancelled and am marking your account!! "
  • OrangeCalling
    I've phoned them around a dozen times today (I kid you not), and they keep fobbing me off with the 'I'm not eligible because i haven't gone over my free minutes'. They were extremely cagey when i asked for a simple yes or no answer if i would be affected. One chap offered to reduce my monthly bill and/or increase my free minutes. I've been with them for 12 months, and 6 months left to run on my current contract. I'm not after anything; I just wish to terminate my contract because I do not accept the new, higher call charges. So still no joy. Do I escalate this with Orange or Ofcom?
  • King M.
    I got the text a few days ago, and havnt used any minutes over my call plan, however i have called 0800 and 0845 numbers, albeit only for a minute or so in the past 3 months. Will they give me any grief if i ring them up? I dont really want to cancel, but wouldnt mind my monthly line rental decreased by maybe £10 a month. Should I ring them up now or hold out and see what happens ?
  • bob
    I managed last tuesday to cancel my contract with a "good guy" in the retentions team, who simply checked I had received the text message, and then cancelled, i'm now on o2 with a superb iPhone 3GS. however I am a little worried now that Oranges legal team ave got involved they are going to come back and bite me with breach of contract charges! as people have said anyone can cancel a contract, it's down to interpretation of the language content as to weather this is classed as a breach of T&C's
  • salma
    i rang up an 0845 number day before i rang to terminate but aparrently it wasnt on my bill! i reaaly needed to call actually not just for the sake of the changes...... ive called of com got a reference nuber and wrote to orange today will await reply but seriously thinking of stopping direct debits!
  • salma
    has anyone stopped their direct debit payments?
  • Jase
    @bob Can they actually do that? I mean, you cancelled your contract (and I'll assume they issued the PAC code too?)...can any company attempt to get breach of contract charges AFTER the cancellation has gone through?
  • Wolfy
    @bob & @Jase Thats my main concern too, i cancelled last week, i received a letter to say sorry you're wanting to leave us, but still proceeded to get a nice new contract on O2, can anyone shed any light on if there's any danger of us being done for breach of contract
  • Usama
    I got the text today, and when calling, she tried to tell me I don't qualify. I kept ninsisting it is unfair as the contract tat I agreed to was different. Finally, se accepted, an even though I haven't gone over my mins, I would be payin more if I did in the future, She tried to carry out an immediate disconnection, but as a result of being adamant, shes got my PAC code being processed. My advice is be adamant and argumentative!
  • King M.
    Whats options are yous selecting when you ring 150?
  • Becca
    I am so stuck of what to do now! I have been told a number of times that i am not elegable to cancel. However i have gone through all the right procedures including calling ofcom, orange executive office and speaking to a supervisor then a manager and im still not getting anywhere! What to do next i dont know! I even told them that i was goin to virgin who are the only people who will be cheaper!!!!
  • David G.
    I took out my contract on 12th june I have recived the text. Does any one know whether I qualify or not.
  • jack
    what would hapen if i just cancelled the direct debit??? ....its all well and good being argumentative and stubborn but when the ocs are just saying....'we wont cancel' it gets demoralising....we need more than ....keep perservering....its all about getting the right person....its beyond that for me ive tried to many times and i need to pursue a new avenue
  • David G.
    If you just cancel the DD it may adversely affect your credit file. i.e. they may say you have defaulted on the agreement.
  • Michael
    I took out my contract on 4th june , I have recived the text. Does any one know whether I qualify or not?
  • OrangeCalling
    I'm still not getting any joy, they refuse to disconnect me, even though I've been incredibly insistent. they eventually cut me off. I'll try again tomorrow.
  • Keir
    I called today expecting a big argument after being told no on Saturday, 2 minutes on the phone with customer services and less than a minute with retentions my contract was cancelled. No fuss, no hassle and worst of all no argument! Was looking forward to it as well.
  • Junkyard
    Don't be ridiculous, the hard part is getting them to cancel your contract. Once they've agreed to do so, they're hardly going to sue you for it. They'd have to sue themselves - not that I'd put it past them, the dumb fucks.
  • Wolfy
    @ Junkyard Cheers for that info, thats a bit of a relief, i unlike some others on here was quite lucky first time out and cancelled straight away, the only drawback was my phone was bricked within 2 minutes of ending the call, so i was mobileless for 3 days :-(
  • Jay
    Orange have pulled the plans to change the prices so its back to normal and won't affect any of you. Good news i'm sure everyone will be happy now!
  • Jo
    @ Wolfy They are blocking phones after cancelling? Or just cutting you off from orange?
  • Pete
    I was lucky to have cancelled my contract first attempt on monday evening =p wonder if they will go back on the cancellation now that they are not enforcing the new charges? =/
  • Marky
    Me & my mrs both have orange contracts & were told a few days a go we could cancell no probs,we took a few day to think out our options, i phoned last night & got passed from pillar to post for an hour, shes just text me from work sayin she called this morning only to be told we cant cancell as they have pulled the plans to change the prices, anyone else heard this ??? Gutted if its true
  • Becca
    Now they are not helping anyone. They are apparently not changing their terms and conditions!! i bet they do it again in a few months!!
  • James
    I rang them about two weeks ago, spoke to a nice guy and got the contract cancelled. The PAC system was down so he could not put in the request at the time but noted that the contract was cancelled. I then got cold feet about 10 days later and rang to confirm the final date to find out my contract had not been cancelled and there were no notes on the system at all. I was about to go mad when the lady cut me off, cancelled my contract immediately and told me the PAC code would be with me in 5 days. Having read all of the above posts I rang today and confirmed that the PAC code is on its way so I think I have just made it. However, to the posts above, in theory the contract will not be changing, nor will it actually have ever changed. With this in mind there has not been a material change to the contract and I do wonder if orange can now demand that all customers honor the original agreement. They could maintain a position that they agreed to the cancellation only if the contract was amended.
  • Sam
    Orange Company Representative Has MSE’s permission to post for company MoneySaving Convert Join Date: May 2008 Post Count: 55 Thanked 37 Times in 15 Posts -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Hi all, I work for Orange, and just wanted to clarify a few points: - due to customer feedback, we will not be going ahead with the proposed pricing changes. - anyone who has already requested their PAC code will still get it. - we will be reviewing all policies and procedures for price changes to make sure that they are clearer in future. So apologies from Orange for any frustration and confusion caused, this was never our intention. Conor
  • Sam
    I dont work for orange (thank god) just posting what was on MSE by Connor from Orange
  • Grunthos
    Cancelled my contract on the 28th - seemed to be no problem. Guy said there was 30 days on it and I got my PAC a couple of days later. However, I now have my final bill for over £200 - a porting out fee apparently. I will be ringing them first thing tomorrow but wondered if anyone else has had one of these?
  • Grunthos
    OK - panic over - just talked to a very helpful CSR in billing who went off and talked to her supervisor about my bill and got it wiped. Not sure why it was sent in the first place but am somewhat relieved as I’m expecting delivery of my new Nokia 5800 from Virgin this morning! So, if you get a final bill that tries to charge you for porting, ring up billing and ask them to look into it - tell them you cancelled because of the t&c changes and weren’t expeting to pay for the rest of the contract. Phew!
  • Cancelling W.
    [...] Cancelling your Orange contract – what does the law say? [...]

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