T-Mobile increase roaming costs: can you cancel your T-Mobile contract?
[UPDATE 16/9 - we've now published a full guide to help you cancel your T-Mobile contract. You'll find it here.]
It seems T-Mobile are trying to get away with ramping up the cost of international roaming, and they're giving their customers no say in the matter whatsoever. When we asked for your help this morning in providing feedback and information, we weren't expecting a response so quickly. This kind of behaviour by mobile phone companies really matters to you, and when you look at the charges T-Mobile are forcing on customers, you can understand why.
This is the current state of play; in the last couple of days, T-Mobile have sent texts to customers that state:
“From 26 October we’re changing some of roaming rates outside the EU, to find out how these changes affect you when you’re abroad see t-mobile.co.uk/row”
When you visit the T-Mobile website, you discover that in some instances the cost of receiving and making calls while abroad will increase from 50p to £1.20 - an increase of 140%. The new charges will apply to all T-Mobile pay-as-you-go and contract customers, as well as business customers who have received the text message.
This should give customers the right to cancel, because it means being unable to use their mobile abroad without paying far higher charges than agreed to when signing their contract. However, T-Mobile are telling customers that international roaming is an "additional service", according to Bitterwallet readers:
"i said but surely when i signed up the price of calls was 55p a min yet you’re increasing those prices, surely thats of detriment to me, they classed roaming a “Service” and said it doesnt form part of your contract so they can do what they want, whats to stop them saying right when you go abroad we’ll charge you £100 a min, and you have no option but to accept that!"
"They said to me that roaming charges are NOT part of my contract hence the reason why I can’t cancel…"
That's where we're up to, so let's begin with a look at the current terms of service for all contract customers - you'll find them for yourself here (the link opens a PDF document). The conditions for cancelling a contract are straight forward:
Such a massive increase in roaming charges will obviously be of material detriment to anybody who goes abroad in the future. The big question is - is roaming an additional service, or a core service? The answer has massive implications; if roaming is classed as an additional service, it effectively gives the provider the right to charge whatever they like for calls, leaving the customer with no choice but to either pay them or not use their mobile.
First, let's look at T-Mobiles own wording on what an additional service is:
But according to their own website, roaming is a service already included with every T-Mobile handset on any T-Mobile contract:
This states roaming isn't an Additional Service, because it is inherent to the phone and contract. It's not a feature you add to your phone - you and T-Mobile both accepted this functionality when you entered your contract.
Furthermore, the T-Mobile website doesn't treat roaming as an additional service - on this page you'll find additional services you can add to your contract. All involve paying an additional fee for bundled services and all have their own terms and conditions, entirely separate from the main terms of service.
So where are the terms and conditions for roaming? They're in the standard Terms of Service - in fact the terms are littered with references to it. So if roaming is part of every customer's T-Mobile contract, how can it possibly be a service that is offered in addition to your contract?
Look at that last clause - the Terms of Service state that use of roaming may be mandatory if the T-Mobile network cannot provide service. How can an additional service be mandatory?
We could go on, but there's really no need. The bottom line is this - roaming is a core service offered by T-Mobile. It is not marketed, sold or contracted like any other additional service available from T-Mobile. There are terms governing the use and billing of roaming written into the Terms of Service for every customer.
A contract is to protect the rights of both parties, not just the bigger of the two. If customers are being told they cannot cancel because roaming is an additional service, it is likely that all operators have been briefed to say that, because by doing so it instantly overrides the customers right to cancel. If enough of an issue is made of this, then no doubt T-Mobile will simply move the goalposts - if you followed our recent skirmish with Orange, you'll know that the operators and the company changed their tactics all the time to avoid allowing cancellations.
For now, tell us as much as you can about what you're told by T-Mobile customers services when you speak to them. We'll revisit this story next week, and if T-Mobile are still fobbing off customers, we'll look at what further action you can take.
UPDATE - I’ve just re-read the Terms of Service. Let me walk through their definitions:
“Price Plan Service – the inclusive Service supplied with Your Price Plan”
“Price Plan – the bundle of Services including any Allowance provided by us to you in exchange for your payment of the Price Plan Charge”
“Price Plan Charge – the charge for the Price Plan Service”
By their own definitions, roaming is part of the Price Plan Service; it is a service that you don’t pay any additional fee for, so therefore it's an inclusive Service supplied with the Price Plan.
“7.1.4 We can increase any Price Plan Charge.”
“7.2.3 A Cancellation Charge won’t apply if you are within the Minimum Term and:
“126.96.36.199 You are a Consumer and the change we gave you Written Notice of in point 2.11.2 or 7.1.4 above is of material detriment to You and You give Us notice to immediately cancel this Agreement before the change takes effect.”
It doesn’t matter what they tell you – roaming is part of your Price Plan. Increasing roaming charges means increasing the Price Plan Charges, and this will cause material detriment.