Ofcom is to make it easier for customers to switch broadband providers if their ISP or mobile network increases any prices during the term of a contract.
Whether it’s the cost of broadband, bundle deals or line rental that goes up, Ofcom wants all ISPs to give customers at least 30 days notice of any price rise and let them leave without having to pay a termination fee.
This is currently the case under a set of Ofcom’s ‘General Condition’ rules that ISPs abide by. When Sky and TalkTalk have increased line rental in the past, they’ve let customers know up front.
Read our guide to line rentalUnder the terms of General Condition 9.6, Ofcom already says that ISPs must give customers a heads up if price rises are likely to cause ‘material detriment’.
This is somewhat vague and allows companies wriggle room when it comes to informing customers. Ofcom says that it’s now likely to regard all price increases to be detrimental, requiring ISPs will need to be totally transparent about future price rises.
By transparent, Ofcom means that emails and letters sent out to customers need to set out the price rises in no uncertain terms.
ISPs and networks have also been warned that decreasing things like call minutes, texts and data allowances and not letting people know up front will result in action being taken.
Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director says: “Ofcom is today making clear that consumers entering into fixed-term telecoms contracts must get a fairer deal. We think the sector rules were operating unfairly in the provider’s favour, with consumers having little choice but to accept price increases or pay to exit their contract.
“We’re making it clear that any increase to the monthly subscription price should trigger a consumer’s right to leave their contract – without penalty.”
The new rules will come into effect three months from now. Ofcom says it will be monitoring ISPs and networks closely and will consider penalties if necessary.