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back to article T-Mobile UK punters break for freedom in inflation-busting bill row

T-Mobile UK punters reckon they can avoid the mobile network's latest price rise - after the operator swelled its prices beyond inflation. The T-Mobile contract states that its bills may increase in step with the Retail Price Index, a government-calculated rate of inflation. When this figure reached 3.3 per cent, T-Mobile and …

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3.3%

"The T-Mobile contract states that its bills may increase in step with the Retail Price Index, a government-calculated rate of inflation. When this figure reached 3.3 per cent, T-Mobile and Orange - both run by mobile overlord EE - raised their prices accordingly."

If the government actually said at one point that the rate of inflation was 3.3%, it makes the claim that T-Mobile breached its contract a bit tricky to say the least, provided that they did not increase their rates after the index was adjusted down to 3.2%.

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The Law of Contract in England and Wales

The facts make for an interesting case.

"We used the 3.3 per cent figure IN ANTICIPATION of the issue of the RPI figure".

Are they allowed to raise prices ex ante?

Have they, in fact, charged these higher prices or have they just ended up charging the 3.2% figure?

As to the "small print", there seems to be a popular misconception that "small print" is unconditionally enforceable in a consumer contract. It's not and never has been since the 1800s. This position was made abundantly clear in the 1970s with the Unfair Contract Terms Act - a good read for all consumers:

http://www.oft.gov.uk/shared_oft/reports/unfair_contract_terms/oft311.pdf

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Stop

Re: 3.3%

saying and publishing are two things. I assume the word "probably" was used when being said. It is the published figures that count. TMobile will try to dodge it of course but press it through ombudsman/arbitration and small claims and they will fold.

Especially as they now admit "in anticipation".

Its their own fault for being greedy and not waiting for the published figures.

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Re: The Law of Contract in England and Wales

What T-Mobile should do here is revise the price increase in response to the revised inflation figure - that is retrospectively make the price increase 3.2% and adjust bills accordingly. Do that, and they are unequivocally complying with their own fine print. (As to whether the fine print itself is moral, legal, or justified, I will leave that discussion for some other time).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What they should have done

Is inform customers their bill will be rising in line with RPI inflation, and tell them they expect this to be around 3.3% but the actual figure may change when the government publish RPI figure and to check xyz website for more upto date info.

That way they don't get into this mess in the first place.

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Re: 3.3% AFTER this price rise

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10612209

says (at the moment) that the RPI inflation annual figure was 3.2% for February and 3.3% for March.

The complaint, as I understand it, is that at the time of the price rise announcement, the latest RPI figure was 3.2%, the February figure.

I can see an argument that if the price increased by 3.3% is announced but not actually charged until the RPI is out at 3.3% then T-Mobile haven't breached these contracts.

I wouldn't have done it that way, though.

It was different when technological advances meant that telecommunications services were actually getting cheaper and cheaper. But that isn't the business model any more. Now, the basic business of moving data around from place to place, including across the planet, is too cheap to meter for individual customers - with the obvious exception of wholesale video piracy enthusiasts, and I'd say a slightly less obvious exception of people watching BBC TV online (including HD admittedly) who are not necessarily asked to pay, but the BBC has been. I think they said "no".

Nope, you're paying for a telephone call packaged into a handset, or for a text message likewise, not for the volume of data - just the packaging.

You can use Skype to talk internationally pretty much for free though - and so these contracts either disallow Skype, or charge for it.

So it's not going to get cheaper any more.

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Re: The Law of Contract in England and Wales

@Michael Jennings

Thanks for that informative piece, Mike.

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idiots...

.... they cant even cheat customers right.

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FAIL

It appears they are trying to lie their way out of it...

Which frankly, is utterly shocking.

Their own T+C's make it abundantly clear as to which period the RPI comparison is made, and now they are trying to weedle out of it, with straight up lies.

The latest response indicates that they 'guessed' at what the RPI figure would be. Is that a responsible way to run a publicly traded company? Is it possible even against the law?

If they got it wrong, millions of punters would be entitled to cancel. Well, I suoppose they already are.

Tmobile have screwed up, and instead of admitting it, keeping it quiet, and handling the small number of people who spotted it, they haveput up the barricades, and allowed it to balloon.

Fact, they have screwed up. Their OWN T+C's dictate very clearly their own allowed actions.

They have messed up.

FYI: Anyone that wants to take advantage of this (and given how Tmobile have behaved, I strongly recommend that you do) you must do so soon... Before the rise comes into effect.

I suspect this is the reason they are stonewalling. Once the rise takes effect, the rise is binding, even if they got it wrong. Once the rise happens, I think you will find them quietly admitting the mistake, and trying to sort out deals with customers. So get your complaint and cancellation request in pronto.

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Re: It appears they are trying to lie their way out of it...

It shouldn't matter anyway. They can't sell you a 2 year fixed-price contract and hide a clause in the small print that allows them to increase the price. Particularly as it's unbalanced. i.e. if they had an inflation clause in there, and it said if it goes down the customer gets a discount, if it goes up, then we get more goodies. Then they could argue it's reasonable. But because it's a fixed price contract they'd have to have a bit about inflation in the big print, not the small print. Or tell you about it at point of sale. Of course that requires a court case if they continually and pig-headedly refuse to back down - and because it's small claims court territory no precedent is set by any case they lose. So it's not really worth the fight, as on year two of a £50 a month contract that's only £18, and the court fee starts at £20.

I don't know how the rules work out for contract disputes and credit ratings. I imagine they can screw up your credit rating even if you're in dispute, although they'd struggle to get a county court judgement, so it wouldn't be too bad.

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Re: It appears they are trying to lie their way out of it...

I think thats the key point, consumers assume its a fixed-price contract, but the operators sell you a fixed-term contract.

A quick glance at T-Mobiles T&C for the 24month plan starts with a sentence about you "promise to stay with t-mobile for 24 months", not a mention of the price being fixed at all, but I do wonder just what they say to people in stores.

Of course, hopefully some investigation and kickings by Ofcom (yea right lol) will eventually force them to be fixed-price like consumers assume.

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WTF?

Be *very* wary of any exit from a mobile contract, breach of conditions or not.

PAC codes are allegedly valid for 30 days, and you typically need to give 30 days notice. However most of the operators consider using the PAC code as an "early termination" (i.e. you've given less than 30 days notice).

They operators then pro-rate your allowance, and charge you any excess (minutes, MB, texts) at the out of allowance rates. They then charge an early termination fee at the same rate as your service rate for each day until the end of the 30 days. You still pay the equivalent of the 30 days notice, but you don't get the minutes, data or text from your contract.

If you use the PAC code on day 10, you only get one third of your monthly allowance, but still pay an equivalent charge to line rental for the 30 days. I have no problem paying the 30 days, but if I'm paying for 30 days I should get 30 days allowance, not 10 days allowance.

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30 days notice

If you're cancelling for breach of contract then the 30 days notice won't apply surely?

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Just gone through the PAC code thing with T-Mobile. They rebated me £14 then charged me £18 early termination fee for using the PAC. I asked if there was any way I could have used the PAC without the fee. They answered "no". I refuted the charge because I told them I was never made aware of the charge at sign-up or when getting the PAC code. They say they have removed the charge, so I should get a £14 credit.

Given I have the same number for 17 years, I didn't take kindly to my number being held to ransom. Moved to Giff Gaff which was supposed to be temp but thinking of staying longterm so I don't have to suffer any more bullshit from phone providers. Recurring goodbags gives all the benefits of a. contract without the hassle, although no "free" phone

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Anonymous Coward

I would never touch T-Mobile, EE or Orange again... Bad experiences...

I now have two contracts, one with Vodafone & one with Three, and both are quite helpful, but Vodafone wins hands down in customer support, if only they had the network speeds & data allowance to have kept my main phone contract... but really 750Mb? I can barely watch two episodes on iPlayer with that, useless when I travel!

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Unhappy

Fraud

Me Either. I rang to report what I felt was a fraudulent extension of my contract. One of these companies that ring "on behalf of T-Mobile" called me, and I refused to agree to anything. Then I got a text from T-Mobile welcoming me to my new 12 month contract. After several calls to T-mobile, and being told, on three separate occasions, that their "fraud team" had been passed the details and would ring me back, which they never did, I eventually gave in, rode out the extra 12 months, got my pac code and changed provider.

When they asked why I was leaving I told them. They didn't offer me any incentives to stay, which at least suggests on that last call the person I spoke to had a brain in his head.

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Go

Further to my note, following my complaint call to Three Customer Service on receiving the final bill (on which point they offered to "knock five pounds off" (rejected)) they have "reviewed the last bill" and have calculated the costs of the 30 days notice only and suddenly all the minutes and data fit within the allowances.

They know they are potentially committing fraud (along with several other payers in the industry), but are willing to sail close to the wind as not enough customers challenge them.

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Flame

My problem with T-Mobile contracts is

That there is no information on the contract as to what you will actually get. It just has a T-Mobile product name. So if they sell you one thing in the shop and you then find out your bills are massively bigger than you had agreed with the sales person it is very difficult to get T-Mobile to do anything about it. Even if the sales person in the shop remembers you and remembers checking with the then store manager that the contract you are signing gives you the deal you are expecting.

Still the fight goes on.

Now why doesn't either T-Mobile of EE's customer service departmental have an email address! Don't they want to join the 20th century yet? Let alone the 21st century.

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Re: My problem with T-Mobile contracts is

@dazed and confused ".........why doesn't either T-Mobile of EE's customer service departmental have an email address! Don't they want to join the 20th century yet?......."

Simple, they want you to ring them.

A solution is to obtain the e-mail address of the CEO Olaf Swantee (see EE website) and ask him to forward your email to the department or staff member concerned.

Alternatively write snail mail to Board Member responsible for customer service, MsJackie O'Leary asking her to take the matter up.

My guess is once enough people start taking up the time of these exec's personal assistants, EE will be more aware of customers' issues -- and make it easier to contact the lower paid guys who are supposed to deal with complaints.

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Watching this like a T-Mobile using hawk

As someone that was quite annoyed about the price increase I'm watching this very closely to see just what is possible with regards to cancellation or at worst negotiating a decent discount. I've been with T-Mobile for five years now and have seen the service go from a refreshing change when I joined to get the G1, to a "me too" network with nothing to distinguish them from the rest.

Each time I see a price increase yet what I pay for stays the same. Am I in this looking for something for nothing? No. It may not seem a lot to some but for me every extra £1 I have to pay out hits hard. If you want to get in with "you shouldn't get what you can't afford" that is the point exactly. I'm tied in to a 24 month contract and I signed up at a set price. I have to pay the bill every month regardless yet if I suddenly earn less as a result of other circumstances I still have to pay that bill. Mobile networks have that wonderful small print that allows them to increase prices due to inflation so they don't lose out. Given the chance you can be damn sure I'll take advantage of this if I can because everything else is geared towards making sure T-Mobile don't lose out. What happened to buyer protection?

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Re: Watching this like a T-Mobile using hawk

If you want to get in with "you shouldn't get what you can't afford" that is the point exactly. I'm tied in to a 24 month contract and I signed up at a set price.

Precisely my view. You sign up to a contract knowing that if the shit hits the fan and your circumstances change, you've still got to find the money to pay the bill, it's based on an assessment of risk. But, operators hiking the price is something you can't account for.

I had to phone them a little while back and say I was going to have a few issues paying that months bill on time, right stroppy they were. I'll be discussing this with them when I pay this months.

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Time for someone else to put out an offer.

Two of my brothers were neither-satisfied-nor-dissatisfied Virgin Media customers up until January. Both ex heavy Sky spenders. I think one had had 3 Super-Hubs, so was a bit more grumpy.

Not only did Virgin do the putting up prices on a fixed term contract thing. But at the same time, Sky had an offer to old customers of 75% off. I wonder if the two were related? If so, excellent work from Sky marketing. Both took the chance to jump ship. So I wonder how many customers that decision cost Virgin? They both heard about the offer separately.

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I would look into this

But from experience it's normally far more hassle than it's worth. I'm with orange right now, but I decided a while ago I' not going back with them, they've screwed over friends and family with hidden fees etc far too many times, they're a bunch of shysters.

I would break out of the contract, but I've only got a few months left, (6 if I recall correctly) but after that contract is being cancelled, and I'm moving to PAYG again. Probably GiffGaff. (If anyone has opinions of GiffGaff please share them, or any GiffGaff alterntaives.)

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Re: I would look into this

Only my own opinion, but I can highly recommend giffgaff for the most part.

The good:

+ Great value: I have seen no other PAYG "bundles" which come close to matching giffgaff. You can match it on a SIM-only 30-day contract, but this doesn't give the same flexibility.

+ Flexibility: If I am skint one month, I can easily not buy a goodybag, use PAYG credit only, switch my data off on my phone and spend only a quid or 2 over a month, or until I have the money. Similarly if I am out of the country for most of the month, I don't have to buy the goodybag.

+ Payback: If you know your stuff and help out on the forums, you get paid for it. I generally get back most of what I have spent on goodybags over the month for a very small amount of work.

+ Community support: If you have an issue (which is not account related), the community will help you very quickly.

The bad:

- Account-related support: Giffgaff don't have call centres. The only way to get account related support is by an online ticket system. It can take days to get a response. I have found the forums good at speeding this along, but it is a major headache.

- Reliability: There have been more major outages on giffgaff since I have been with them than I have ever known from a mobile network.

So, you pay your money and take your choice. I am currently trying to decide whether to stay with them due to a degradation in signal quality at my home. It's been getting steadily worse for the past couple of years, starting with mobile internet dropping to Edge, then GPRS.This was not a major issue as I can use my Wifi at home, but now more than half the voice calls I make or receive from home have such bad audio quality I have to hang up and use the landline. This is an O2 network issue (SWMBO is on O2 and has the same trouble), but it means I can't use my mobile for voice calls at home (admittedly, this is now it's secondary purpose...)

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Re: I would look into this

6 months at £30 a month is £180. 6 months on a virgin 30 day rolling sim is £12 or £72. £108 is nothing to be sniffed at. Obviously you might be on a £10 contract for all I know.

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Anonymous Coward

Happy Days!

Luckily I am at the end of my contract already. Notice given, PAC Code got and ready to transfer to a decent provider that knows what the word 'contract' means.

EE or Extort Everyone can keep the crap service, crap prices and dodgy contracts. This was the second and most definitely the last time I will use Orange/TM/EE, the first time was 16 years again, they are worse now than then, when they were a newbie start up company.

They have tried and tried to get me into another contract or ANY description, phone, landline, broadband and all other world of services, anything that meant me signing a new contract. Obviously they are struggling as this is getting to be once a week, I get a call centre ringing.

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Just TMobile ?

if TMobile and Orange are all EE, does that mean that Orange customers are in the same boat ? I think that's how I read it, just checking

Ta

D

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Anonymous Coward

5.5%

My £37 a month contract is going up by £2 a month.... which is way above inflation

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SIM-only FTW

I'm on a rolling 1 month SIM-only deal, so I can depart when I want. It's slowly coming, where you get airtime and phone separately, although no doubt the short-term deals will either massively increase in price compared to a lock-in, or they'll just get abolished altogether. In which case, back to PAYG which might even work out cheaper.

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FAIL

Mobile contracts = Fail

If you are a business then OK maybe there is a reason to sign up. For the average person it's difficult to get value from these typical one-sided mobile contracts. They dangle the shiny "free" smartphone to get you on board but after that you are powerlessly over a barrel paying through the nose for two years. Stick with pre-pay, save money, and have the satisfaction of disrupting their extorting business model.

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Re: Mobile contracts = Fail

I'd suggest that unless an operator is doing a ridiculously good deal on a handset, ALWAYS go for the SIM-only route. Now you have an unbranded, unlocked phone that you can do what you like with (if that means selling in six months to swap for the next big thing, so be it).

Now you can play operators against each other, and go for the rolling contract. If you're about to be done over, port your number elsewhere and start over - and keep doing so. You then get to benefit from the tariffs offered to new subscribers (before they try and stitch them up with price rises or changing the terms) and off you go again.

I can see why people might be too lazy to do this, but signing a 24 month contract is crazy. Back in the day, I sold mobile phones myself and people were asked to sign for 12 months only. I believe all operators are still required to sell 12 month contracts, but they don't make them obvious - and many websites would lead you to believe they don't exist or aren't available on every phone (and even when you do find them, they try and make them totally uncompetitive anyway). So, once again, DON'T GO FOR A CONTRACT and none of these problems will apply to you and no network will be able to get one over you, as YOU now have control.

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Anonymous Coward

If you have a subsidised phone, you have to return it?

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no, unless you leased your phone through some weird deal.

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i wanna move

I'm with T-Mobile - they're ok but since I've moved home in to a really low reception area I want out.

my work O2 phone works brill in the same location with nearly full coverage.

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Go

Re: i wanna move

Take a look at giffgaff then - O2 network, much better rates.

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all the consumer laws and rubbish contracts

The UK is pretty bad these days... you can buy unlimited yet limited broadband, fixed price phone contracts where the prices are not fixed, low prices "forever" from Asda where forever is just 6 months.

The reason i left was that day to day life is filled with constant price rises on every little thing and while everyone knows its happening there is seemingly no way to stop it.

Vodafone, sky etc probably don't miss me with my average bills (albeit paid on time) since there is still a steady stream of people ready to shift between the monopolies in hope of a better service, only to be disappointed in a couple of months time.

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Childcatcher

Re: all the consumer laws and rubbish contracts

pray tell the uptopian society that welcomed your sane and logical diatribes?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: all the consumer laws and rubbish contracts

Isn't that why we're seeking out new life in space - in hope of finding this place?!

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Only just signed up last month

And had this text telling me it was going up already, but as I'm new it'd be credited for 6 months...

It'd be funny if I could leave the contract already.

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Anonymous Coward

Orange also increasing

Straight from Orange website.

http://www.orange.co.uk/pricechanges/

3.3% apparently.

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stay on payg for a year or 2, then you have t-mobile calling you up because your a valued customer, then give you 1000 minutes, 1m texts and aload of other crap if you top up £5.50 a month, then you just spend the £5 on a 30 day web n walk pack

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Go

Looks like they got away with it - just.

Since the letters went out in early April and, when it was published by the ONS a week or two later, the RPI for March turned out to have gone back up to 3.3% after a slight dip to 3.2% in February, it rather looks as if the whole issue is dead in the water, unfortunately.

T-Mobile seem to have escaped a major cock-up by the skin of their teeth. Who takes pointless risks like that, though? Could they have known what the figure was going to be before it was published, or are they just desperate and not very careful?...

Pity, because it would have been very satisfying for the small print to bite back like that. But maybe it's a positive story after all: perhaps someone at EE got to keep their job.

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Re: Looks like they got away with it - just.

They haven't gotten away with anything. I jumped from O2 to t-mobile to get the better coverage when they merged with Orange. Customer support - terrible, high st shops are filled with sales drones but you have to ring up for support. Phone went faulty, took them 3 months to fix and came back worse than I sent it, they now refuse to replace phone so I've had to buy one. This is the 2nd time they have increased the price on my contract using this inflation bullshit.

I have only a couple of months left on my contract, they will not be getting a renewal. I suspect many other people will jump as well as their contracts expire. A massive drop in customers might just give them the kick they need, I'm willing to pay a bit more and risk some coverage so I don't have to deal with these jokers anymore.

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PAYG Sim options

Made this mistake myself. Tempted by any new better deal. Network neutral. Stupidly obvious but difficult to find out, unless you try the SIM itself.

- Three mobile - PAYG not bad in my house. Data usable - 15 quid a month 300, 3000, all you can eat

- Giffgaff (O2) PAY - Best signal in my house, including data- 12 quid 250 mins, unlimited, unlimited

- Virgin Mobile 30 day rolling (Tmobile/Orange) - Hopeless blackspot. Signal for calls, in and out, data snail like - 15 quid a month, Unlimited, Unlimited, Unlimited............12 quid a month 1200, unlimited, 1gb... !

Mate is paying high massively more than that on a Tmobile contract.

they've got to be worth experimenting with and if you're getting cheaper than any of that lot then. Nuff rezpek.. as the kids undoubtedly no longer say....

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Re: PAYG Sim options

just call tmobile 150 and buy a few minute packs etc, you are still just paying £35pcm and able to buy any unlocked phone whenever you want

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Re: PAYG Sim options

the last time I checked, the packs are roughly priced as a contract that gaves you the same, minute packs only last 5 days which is shit

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FAIL

What about BIS & Data allowances

My wife likes a QUERTY smartphone, and has the Blackberry Torch.

T-Mobile insist on a call package, data package AND Blackberry Internet Services (BIS).

When I asked why we need both T-Mobile data and Blackberry I was told the services split - T-Mobile provide the data, Blackberry the push service and link to the BB Servers.

During their (RIM's) severe outage (last year?) nothing data dependent worked - Google maps, GMail, Browsing, Blackberry app store. All dead for 3-4 days. So what was using T-Mobile's data stream? Nothing at all. A complete con.

Despite many conversations and promises of call backs, they never did get back to me to explain why we needed both. However I managed to get a BIS discount for the life of the contract.

I notice the blackberry packages have been altered now, and don't l ist both elements.

Other networks however are still just as bad, adding BIS costs to an existing package that includes already data.

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