Telecoms users can now switch without penalty, orders Ofcom

woman with lap-top Consumers will have only 30 days to switch penalty-free

Related Stories

Consumers no longer have to stick with telecoms providers who raise their prices unexpectedly.

Operators often promise a fixed price when selling a contract, but subsequently increase their charges.

Under new rules drawn up by telecoms regulator Ofcom for mobile phone, landline or broadband contracts, providers now have to give customers 30 days' notice of such changes.

If customers then decide to switch, they cannot be charged a penalty.

The plans were proposed by Ofcom last October, but take effect from 23 January.

Pay TV will be included where it is part of a package, but not where it is sold on its own.

"We have reached an important milestone in our work to ensure consumers and small businesses have better protection against unexpected price increases," said Claudio Pollack, Ofcom's consumer group director.

Start Quote

We are concerned that some customers may miss their opportunity to switch if they miss the notification”

End Quote Dominic Baliszewski Broadbandchoices

Ofcom found that 10 companies, including Vodafone, BT, Sky and Virgin Media, had put up prices, having originally promised a fixed-price deal when customers took out the contract.

It looked at more than 1,000 complaints about the practice.

Telecoms operators said that they have to put up prices when their own costs go up.

Vodafone, for example, said it had to pay more for services like directory enquiries.

But along with other firms, it has agreed to the changes.

'Sneaky tactics'

The new rules mean that providers are still free to raise prices, but they have to give a month's notice if they do so.

Customers who decide to switch provider as a result will not have to pay an exit fee.

The same applies if the provider reduces the number of minutes, or the amount of data provided, rather than actually increasing the charges.

"This should avoid any sneaky tactics being used," said Dominic Baliszewski of the comparison site Broadbandchoices.

But he warns that customers only have 30 days to switch, after they receive notice of the increase.

"We are concerned that some customers may miss their opportunity to switch if they miss the notification, for example, if they are away for a few weeks on holiday," he said.

Ofcom has also produced a checklist to advise customers what to look for when they are taking out a new telecoms contract.

Telecoms firms will, however, still be able to stipulate in their contracts that prices may rise, even though the contract is for a fixed period.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Business stories

RSS

BBC Business Live

  1.  
    06:30: STOCK MARKET Radio 5 live

    Jane Foley, senior currency strategist at Rabobank is on 5 live talking about the falling stock market. "If we see stocks fall more we may see companies bargain hunting," she says. So more firms may start purchasing each other.

     
  2.  
    06:21: HEATHROW TRAVEL Radio 5 live
    heathrow

    Travel writer Simon Calder is on 5 live talking about the weather. He says he sees about 50 weather-related cancellations at Heathrow, so perhaps about 5% of flights so far. Flights to Frankfurt look hard to come by, he says.

     
  3.  
    06:12: FLIGHTS CANCELLED

    Heathrow airport has said this morning that around 10% of flights will be cancelled today as the remnants of Hurricane Gonzalo hit the UK. Flights with the 20 biggest carriers would be affected, it says. British Airways has already cancelled some ahead of the expected severe weather. The remains of the hurricane are predicted to bring heavy rain and gusts of up to 75mph in some areas, causing disruption to rush-hour travel. If you're travelling today it's worth checking before you arrive at the airport.

     
  4.  
    06:02: TOTAL CEO DEATH Radio 5 live

    Christophe de Margerie, the chief executive of French oil company Total, has died in an air crash in Moscow. Sarah Rainsford, the BBC's correspondent in Moscow says poor weather with low visibility is a possible cause of the crash. His plane crashed when it collided with a snow-clearing machine killing him and three crew, she tells 5 live.

     
  5.  
    06:01: Howard Mustoe Business reporter

    Good morning! Get in touch via email bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk or on twitter @BBCBusiness.

     
  6.  
    06:00: Matthew West Business reporter

    Morning folks, we have the latest public borrowing figures out at 9:30 today. But before that we have full year results from online retailer ASOS, and interim figures from Whitbread, plus the weather is promising to play havoc with the transport network today with 10% of flights out of Heathrow already cancelled this morning. We'll bring you everything as it happens.

     

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.