Thousands can cancel Orange contracts after loophole is opened
UPDATE 12/08: Orange has now scrapped the ToS change following consumer upset and cancellations. Read full update and official statement here.
UPDATE 08/08/09: Comments as of late Friday indicate Orange are now refusing to cancel contracts if you did not go over contract allowance in the last 3 months. We will be contacting Ofcom and taking legal advice Monday and will post a response. More here.
Cast your mind back to what happened when 3 announced they were cancelling their 3 Like Home service - it provided customers with a loophole to terminate their contract early. 3 weren't entirely pleased about it for the most part, and their staff tried plenty of tricks to wear down those who called to cancel.
Now it's the turn of Orange. They're making substantial changes to their pricing policy - in particular there'll be changes made to costs for web access from your mobile, and the cost of calls not included in your plan (the likes of 0870 numbers and calls made beyond your allowance) will rise from 5p to 14.7p a minute. Many customers have received a text from Orange to make them aware of the changes, which come into force from mid-September. As far as we can figure out, these changes are set to affect all customers.
[NOTE 28/7 - Bitterwallet reader Robert states has been told by Orange customer services the changes do not affect customers who signed up after June this year, so you may not be eligible to cancel]
Is this an opportunity to cancel your Orange contract? Absolutely. The terms and conditions set out by Orange are very specific:
"4.3 You may also terminate your Contract if we vary its terms, resulting in an excessive increase in the Charges or changes that alter your rights under this Contract to your detriment. In such cases you would need to give us at least 14 days written notice prior to your Billing Date (and within one month of us telling you about the changes). However this option does not apply if:
"4.3.1 we have increased the Charges by an amount equal to or less than the percentage increase in the All Items Index of Retail Prices published by the Central Statistical Office in the Monthly Digest of Statistics in any 12 month period."
Of course, Orange isn't making it easy for everyone. A common complaint in both the HotUKDeals forums and MSE is that customer services are turning down requests to cancel, because customers either don't use web services on their mobile, or that they aren't using their full allowance anyway. This is not a valid reason to refuse a request to cancel. The key is the passage in the terms and conditions that says:
"You may also terminate your Contract if we vary its terms, resulting in... changes that alter your rights under this Contract to your detriment"
Regardless of what customer services may say, your contract gives you the right to go over your call allowance, regardless of whether you do or not. If gives you the right to call 0870 numbers and the right to use web services, even if you have no need to. You have the right to do so at the price you originally agreed with Orange when you signed the contract. Your average monthly bill may not be affected by these changes, but the terms and conditions in this instance are concerned with your rights being affected; clearly, if you can't go over your allocated minutes without paying three times the price you originally agreed when you signed the contract, then the proposed changes are detrimental to your right to do so.
Another trick being attempted by some customer service agents is to demand the return of the handset. However as the terms and conditions clearly state:
"14.1 your Device is not a part of your Contract - your Device and Accessories are acquired by you outside the terms of your Contract."
If an Orange operator demands the return the handset is mandatory, politely ask them to read their own terms and conditions.
Finally, it seems some customer service agents are telling customers who didn't receive the original text that they aren't affected by the change. Again, your monthly usage isn't the point here - it's whether you have the right to exceed it and not be charged more than you originally agreed.
As is always the case in these instances, how successful you are will depend on the temperament of the individual operator taking your call, and how well informed they are. Be polite, but stick to your guns. Contracts are in place to protect you as well as the other party - brush up on the points above and let us know how you get on.