Advice for New Mobile Phone Contracts
Ofcom's checklist for when you are taking out a new phone (or broadband) contract
If you’re thinking of signing up to a new mobile phone, home phone or broadband deal, there are a few things you might want to consider first.
- For instance, will the amount you pay each month stay the same over the course of the contract, or do different prices apply at different times?
- If different prices apply, when and how much are they? Will you be able to afford to pay those prices?
- And if the terms, including price (or prices), you agreed to at the outset of the contract change or increase unexpectedly, what are your rights?
This Ofcom guide sets out some factors you might want to consider before signing a new contract and explains what you can do if the price you agreed to at the point of sale increase unexpectedly.
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Check the price terms before you sign
Before signing a contract, check if the price will be the same throughout the contract, or if different prices apply later on.
If different prices apply at different times, your provider must ensure this information is provided clearly and transparently to you at the point of sale. If you’re unclear as to what you are agreeing to, or are uncomfortable with this kind of contract, then don’t sign up.
You may want to consider a fixed price contract which gives you the security of knowing that the regular subscription charge will not change, so it’s worth shopping around to find the deal that best suits you.
Other things you could consider before signing a contract
- Exactly what do you get for your money? Does the contract include a usage allowance and what are the charges if you exceed this?
- Are there any extra costs – e.g. for paper bills, for caller ID, for retrieving voicemails, or if you make payment by means other than direct debit?
- How long are you tied into the contract for? Are you happy to sign up for this long? (The maximum initial duration of a consumer telecommunications contract is 24 months.)
- Is there a charge if you leave the contract early? How much is it? It shouldn’t be more than the payments left on the contract (and in some cases should be a lot less).
What other information should my provider give to me at the point of sale?
You should always be told the regular price or prices you are agreeing to pay. In addition, at the point of sale, Ofcom expects providers to give consumers this information:*
- a description of the service;
- the key charges (including minimum contract charges, and any early termination charges, if applicable)
- payment terms;
- the existence of any termination right, including termination procedures;
- the likely date the service will be provided, in case provision is not immediate; and
- any minimum period of contract.
This must be set out in a clear, comprehensible, prominent and accurate manner in writing, such as a letter or email.
If you enter into a contract during a sales call, in addition to giving this information verbally, your provider must send this information to you in good time following the call in writing (e.g. a letter or email).
* Please note that under Ofcom rules, providers are not expected to provide all this information to consumers for SIM Only mobile contracts (where the notice period for cancelling this contract does not exceed one month) for Prepaid Mobile Services (typically Pay As You Go Services), or for home broadband deals. General consumer laws do still apply.
Unexpected increases to your agreed regular subscription price
Under Ofcom guidance which applies to contracts for fixed minimum periods starting on or after 23 January 2014, if your provider increases the regular (usually monthly) subscription price (or prices, if you agreed that different prices apply at different times) beyond what you agreed to at the point of sale, it should:
(a) give you at least one month’s notice of any such price rise; and
(b) allow you to exit the contract without penalty if you choose to exercise that right.
Price increases to services outside your agreed regular subscription price
The guidance does not apply to any price increases for services outside of the regular subscription price. These could include international calls, calls to Directory Enquiries or premium rate numbers where you’re charged on a call by call basis and billed each month on top of your subscription.
However, your provider must still consider the application of Ofcom rules and general consumer law to any price increases for such services. It must give you the opportunity to leave your contract if the proposed increase is likely to be of “material detriment”.
If it does not do this and you think that the relevant price increase(s) will have a materially detrimental impact on you because of your circumstances, you should raise this with your provider and provide evidence to support your claim.
How do I complain?
If you believe that a provider isn’t following Ofcom’s guidance or that you have been mis-sold a contract you should contact its customer services department and make a formal complaint. Always ask for a reference number when you make a complaint.
If you haven’t reached a resolution with the provider after eight weeks (or earlier if stalemate (“deadlock”) is reached), you may have the right to take your case to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Scheme.
The provider must tell you which scheme it is a member of, or you can use the Ofcom ADR checker
You can also contact Ofcom. Complaints data helps Ofcom to target their enforcement action against companies that may not be compliant with the Ofcom rules.
If you want to switch mobile phone provider, and you would like to keep your mobile telephone number, you can! You need a PAC Code. Use our handy tool to switch mobile phone providers and keep your existing mobile phone number. Get your PAC Code now!
What is a PAC code?
A porting authorisation code, or PAC code, allows you to transfer your existing mobile phone number from one mobile phone network provider to another mobile phone provider so that if you change mobile phone networks you do not have to give everyone a new number... You can keep your existing mobile phone number. The process is termed mobile number portability, or number porting. It's quick, FREE and very easy to do - follow the instructions here for full details on how to port your mobile phone number to a new network provider.
NOTE: You can purchase your new phone contract and then obtain your PAC code. It is not essential to have your PAC code prior to purchasing your new phone. However, you will need your PAC code if you want to keep your existing phone number (i.e. transfer your current number to your new provider). Use our handy tool above to obtain your PAC code.
PAC codes are FREE.
To keep your mobile phone number when switching to another mobile phone network, use our handy tool to obtain your PAC code. Just select your current and new phone provider click OK and you'll receive full instructions for obtaining your PAC code.