Company spokesperson offers statement on telecoms regulator’s consultation.
Vodafone UK has responded to today’s announcement that telecoms regulator Ofcom has launched a consultation on how best to protect consumers from being hit by price hikes midway through a fixed-term contract.
A spokesperson from Vodafone UK offered the following statement: "We support Ofcom's desire to give consumers reassurance about the prices that they will pay during their contract, but the regulator's proposals risk generating significant confusion and potentially increasing the cost of getting a mobile phone contract for millions of people. As such they could damage what Ofcom's own research shows is the best value mobile phone market for consumers anywhere in Europe.
“We believe there is work to be done to ensure that customers understand the need for long-term contracts and to ensure they are protected during that time, but Ofcom first needs to understand the difference between the prices that are set by mobile phone companies and those which are not.
“We simply do not control many of the charges faced by consumers. They are set by third parties and mobile phone companies have to pass those costs on or they will be subsidising other companies. Prices set by third parties such as BT, include those for directory enquiry services, premium rate and 08 numbers. Yet Ofcom appears resolved to introduce measures that would effectively prevent any rises in these prices being recouped while customers are still in contract.
“We cannot be held accountable should BT, for example, put up the price of calls to premium rate, 08 or its 118500 numbers. Nor can we be expected to swallow that sort of price rise ourselves.
“Under Ofcom's proposals new customers, meanwhile, could find themselves paying different prices for different services depending on which third party has recently increased its prices. At a time when both the regulator and consumer groups are calling for prices to be simpler to understand, Ofcom's proposals could take the industry back to a time when consumers were faced with a bewildering array of prices for calling different numbers.
“Ofcom itself admits that if its proposals are carried out, they could result in the up-front cost of using a mobile phone actually increasing as mobile phone operators will have to try and second guess what price increases third parties will attempt to introduce.
“As this is the start of a consultation on the issue we will of course be engaging with Ofcom to see how they intend to prevent price gouging by third parties, widespread consumer confusion about prices and increases in the up-front cost of getting a phone.
“We can then move to a solution that rightly protects consumers by giving them a clear understanding of price and contract commitments which we are sure both the regulator and consumer groups want to see happen."
Following a review into the fairness of contracts that drew attention to several issues regarding existing guidelines, the regulator today (January 3rd) launched a consultation on how to shield consumers from price increases that are implemented mid-way through fixed contracts for broadband, mobile and landline services.
Under Ofcom’s proposed changes, operators would still be able to raise their process in the middle of fixed-term contracts, yet customers would be allowed to exit the contract free of charge if they are not willing to accept the rise.