British communications regulator Ofcom has announced the launch of an industry-wide enforcement programme into whether in-contract price rises were laid down clearly enough by operators before customers signed up. In a press release, Ofcom announced that, having analysed customer complaints and other preliminary evidence, it was concerned that consumers who took out contracts between 1 March 2021 and 16 June 2022 may not have been provided with sufficiently clear information about in-contract price rises, which are usually applied in March or April each year. As per the regulator’s rules during that period, if a provider included potential future price rises in the terms of a contract, these were required to be set out prominently and transparently at the point of sale. If it were the case that customer had not agreed to those terms when signing up – because they had not been made sufficiently prominent and transparent – providers should have notified them of the price increase and offered them a right to exit penalty-free.
Ofcom has said it is now investigating ‘what happened in practice’, while noting it plans to collect additional information from a range of service providers to assess the steps they have taken to ensure these terms are prominent and transparent. Should the watchdog identify specific issues with providers complying with our rules, it may launch separate investigations into individual firms.
Commenting on the matter, Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Networks and Communications Group Director, said: ‘As millions of people are having to deal with rising household bills, it is more important than ever that telecoms companies don’t shirk their responsibilities and keep customers fully informed about what they are signing up to … It’s vital that people are told clearly upfront about any future price rises they will face while they are in contract, and we’re investigating to check whether this happened in practice.’