Ofcom to clamp down on mid-contract mobile price hikes


Ofcom wants to introduce measures that will make it less costly for consumers to cut short phone and broadband contracts with providers that hike their prices.

Many of the major mobile operators have increased the price of their services in recent times, while O2 plans to up its prices from the end of next month.

End users that want to switch to cheaper providers are often charged a severance fee by their incumbent operator, if they chose to go elsewhere during their current contract term.

Ofcom is consulting on rules that we propose would give consumers a fair deal in relation to mid-contract price rises.

This is something Ofcom is keen to stamp out with the launch of its new consultation, which aims to protect consumers from price rises during fixed contracts for landline, broadband and mobile services.

In a statement, the comms regulator explained: "Ofcom proposes to...allow consumers to withdraw from a contract without penalty, if providers increase prices during the contract term.

"While it would allow communications providers to increase prices during a fixed-term contract, consumers would be free to leave the contract if they did not wish to accept the rise."

The organisation revealed it has also considered a "complete ban" on fixed contract price rises, but dropped this proposal over concerns about how it would square with European laws.

Claudio Pollack, Ofcom's consumer group director, said: "Many consumers have complained to us that they are not made aware of the potential for price rises in what they believe to be fixed contracts.

"Ofcom is consulting on rules that we propose would give consumers a fair deal in relation to mid-contract price rises," Pollack added.

The consultation is expected to close on 14 March 2013, and until then Ofcom will be garnering feedback from stakeholders.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.