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back to article Ofcom says no to automatically renewed contract badness

Telecoms firms will be banned from automatically signing customers up to renewed contracts with minimum contract periods, telecoms regulator has said. It said that 15 per cent of home phone users are tied into such contracts. BT and a number of smaller providers operate such contracts but this must stop, Ofcom has said in a …

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ARCs

Are a disgrace and should need an explicit opt-in by the customer for any contract of any kind. Insurance companies are absolute arseholes at this - "we thought we'd automatically renew your insurance at a highly inflated new premium level for your convenience unless you send us engraved tablets 3 weeks in advance telling us not to".

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Happened to me recently

I've always had to actively renew my car insurance otherwise it would automatically cancel, this was until joining with Admiral. When the renewal letter came through I skimmed to the renewal price, checked on confused.com and renewed with someone else for 80 quid cheaper. I later received a letter informing me that they were unable to take payment from my debit card (it had expired thank heavens) anda threat that they would cancel my policy (that I hadn't requested) and charge me for any outstanding weeks. It was fortunate that I'd renewed with Elephant who are also part of the Admiral trading group so it was all sorted. A slight lapse on my part. But dirty deeds on their part too.

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Been there too

Had the same problem with my insurance. Not such an easy solution though (I am still fighting it, without much success as yet...)

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Had the same problem with my wifes insurance

Even after she had her car stolen and not recovered they tried to nail us for another years insurance.

A quick look at the Financial services ombudsman's website gave us all the ammo we needed to get them to not steal from us.

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I agree but..

>Are a disgrace and should need an explicit opt-in by the customer for any contract of any kind.

BT's always has. You have to choose to sign up for a rolling contract. They also send a letter near the end of your current period reminding you that the renewal is coming up. I got free weekend and evening calls by choosing to go on their ARC and they reminded me twice. The second time I switched to something else with no hassle. It all seemed to go perfectly well. It annoys me that special offers might be withdrawn just because some people are careless.

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@AndrueC

Funny that. I *never* agreed to an ARC, and was never told that it was one until I tried to move to an alternative provider 2 years later, only to be told that my '18-month contract' had in fact automatically been extended by another 18 months at the anniversary and I'd have to pay a massive termination charge if I wanted to leave. They had *never* sent me anything about that whatsoever.

This is a *despicable* practice, and aren't allowed in any other situation.

- Rental agreements either require specific renewal or are 'x months followed by rolling y month notice'. Insurance is always "Here is your new premium, we'll renew automatically unless you call us."

BT? Nope, they just automatically extend the contract and don't even tell you.

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Ofcom lifts a finger?

It still allows mobile network companies, who are quite capable of taking money from your bank account whenever they like, to require you to contact them before they will return any credit to said bank account when you leave them. Astonishing that all they have forced these companies to do is to state more clearly on your final bill that they owe you money.

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As someone who has been caught by this...

<rant>

After a number of years with BT I attempted to switch providers from BT last year due to a number of problems in our area with broadband speed and reliability after the 21CN upgrades. Unfortunately I was on BT friends and family and there would be a charge for terminating early. As it was only two months away, I stupidly waited to avoid the charge.

I then gave BT one months notice and everything went smoothly for the broadband, but the phone line was delay by ten days which meant BT automatically renewed the friends and family deal for 12 months inspite of having the BT line for only two days during this 12 month contract.

It took about four weeks of calls to an Indian call centre before I was able to get someone who could understand the issue rather than just say "yes I understand what the problem is" and offer a £10 refund (the early contract termination was for about £90).

Yes I got my refund but it required a lot of time talking to idiots and BT provided no compensation for the braincells that gave up during the process.

When the revolution comes, my vote is for BT staff to be first against the wall...

</rant>

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Automatic renewals

BT take this to ridiculous lengths! I recently asked for a gizmo which, supposedly. will improve my appalling Broadband. Not only did they charge me £1.20 for this, but extended my contract by 12 months.

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Sigh

..and ten minutes research would have told you how to achieve the same thing yourself with a screwdriver in ten minutes.

Or how to get the same equipment for slightly less from someone else.

Or something even better (a filtered face plate) for slightly more money.

Now they certainly shouldn't have renewed the contract (and frankly it sounds highly unlikely to me) but unfortunately they'd already taken you for a bit of ride when you fell for their hype.

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You know your business is crap when...

....you have to trick your customers into long term contracts. Customers should buy from you because they like your service. Not because they've been tricked into staying another 12 months.

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How...

How was this legal in the first place?

Surely a contract is a legally binding agreement between both parties, normally for a given amount of work or duration. How can one side legally decide to tag on an extension of that contract without getting agreement from the other?

Tagging an extra 12 months onto the contact is a significant change in the terms of that contact I'd guess and by trying to do that without explicit consent the contract itself would be invalidated, yes? no?

Hell, I've known someone who got a refund (and a free service) when getting their car serviced. The mechanic had carried out work without ringing up to confirm that it was OK to do so (and provide a quote); acquaintance got arsey and rang the head office. Got the parts and service free and an offer of the next service free as well.

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@CD001

You'll find it's somewhere in the small-print so well embedded only a law firm on a high retainer would find it, hence you actually sign up to it. They truly are bastards.

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About damn time!

BT is still trying to charge people to terminate the service, even if you are leaving because they have failed to fix faults.

Personally I told them to get stuffed and refused to pay, informing them I had no problems going to court over it, plus would then demand compensation for all the time wasted dealing with them, which was journaled and available for them to read ;)

Strange...they just let me go for free, but why should anyone have to get to threatening them...

Change needed for sure.

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Not just telecoms

Similar action is more than overdue for most types of domestic (and business) utility contracts. Have you ever tried getting off a British Gas supply contract, for example?

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Direct Debit Indemity Claim

Speak to your bank if you pay by Direct Debit and want your money back.

If you tell them that BT (or whoever) have taken the wrong amounts, your bank has to refund you any DDs taken for a LONG time (not sure how long, but a friend got the installation fee and 18 months of line rental refunded to him by his bank after BT finally declared that "you can't get broadband on your line", despite the fact that his neighbours in his newbuild block of flats all could).

BT would then have to sue you for the money in the small claims court. Let them. If Ofcom are now saying that it's unfair, then pointing that out to a judge may well work in your favour.

Obviously don't take back any line rental payments for the pre-cancellation term, only the cancellation itself. And then cancel your direct debit. Simples.

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30 Day Rolling

What about 30 day rolling contracts? e.g. for mobile phones?

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So can I tell BT to shove it on this

I am moving home and getting a early termination fee (only £15, but principle damn it) applied.

Can I tell BT to feck off now

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