Ofcom implements tougher laws on operators

23 January 2014 | Kavit Majithia


UK watchdog Ofcom has implemented plans to stop telecoms providers from charging consumers for switching operators when they raise prices unexpectedly.

Operators will now be required to give its customers 30 days’ notice of any changes. If it differs from the fixed-price contract it promised when selling the tariff, customers can decide to then switch operator without incurring a penalty.

The new plans will take effect from today, and pay-TV will also be included when it is part of the package, but not when sold separately.

"We have reached an important milestone in our work to ensure consumers and small businesses have better protection against unexpected price increases," said Claudio Pollack, consumer group director at Ofcom. 

Ten companies – including Vodafone, BT, Sky and Virgin Media – had put up prices after having promised a fixed deal, and Ofcom revealed it has received over 100 complaints regarding the issue.

Telecoms operators argue that they only put up prices when they are forced to, as their own costs increase. All operators in the UK have agreed to the changes, however.

The rules also apply if a provider reduces the number of minutes or the amount of data provided, but consumers will only have 30 days to switch after they receive notice of any increases in price or reduction in tariff.

Operators are free to stipulate that prices may rise within the contracts, even if is for a fixed period.