Ofcom has stepped in to order mobile provider EE to give customers another 30-day window to leave penalty-free after it upped out-of-bundle call charges by as much as 100%.
The communications regulator has deemed EE to have acted outside the rules when informing its customers about recent price hikes.
Concerns were raised following complaints from EE customers that exit rights were not made clear to them and pressure from Ofcom has prompted the telecoms giant to agree to offer all affected customers a further 30 days to exit their contracts penalty-free.
In May, EE started to send notifications to its customers about increases to some if its out-of-bundle call and message charges, taking effect on 25 June. Some call prices went up as much as 100% and if this affected you, you would've been able to leave your contract penalty-free according rules brought in by Ofcom.
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What are the rules?
Ofcom felt that there was a lack of clarity in the correspondence EE sent out to its customers regarding the price increases. According to the regulator, EE didn't adequately highlight how much of an impact the price increases would have. It also failed to make clear what its customers rights were, which lead to confusion surrounding whether they could end their contracts without facing early termination charges.
The rules state that telecoms providers are obliged to inform customers of any upcoming price rises or changes to their contract that may be of 'material detriment'. On receiving this correspondence, customers are then to be granted 30 days' notice from the date of the communication within which they can leave their contract penalty-free.
Ofcom's ruling demands that providers must clearly express customers' right to exit without being penalised. The regulator felt that EE had neglected to carry out this important requirement and there was reason for concern. This has resulted in EE offering its customers another 30-day window to decide whether they would like to leave or not.
What has EE agreed?
In response to Ofcom's concerns, on Thursday 16 August EE will send another email or letter to each one of the customers it considers to be at a particular disadvantage as a result of the price increases. The correspondence is to clearly outline their rights, stating that they have 30 days from the date of the letter or email to exit their contract without penalty should they choose to.
EE will also be refunding any customer who chooses to leave with the difference between the old pricing and the new pricing for the charges incurred while using the services affected by the price hikes since June. Anyone who feels that they may have been materially affected by the price increases are encouraged to contact EE.
Which prices went up?
Here's a full list of the changes which came into effect on 25 June.
- Calls if you go beyond your allowance are going up to 55p/min (from 50p/min). This applies if you've used up all your monthly inclusive allowance and make calls to standard UK landlines, mobiles and voicemail.
- Calls to numbers starting 08, 09 and 118 are going up to 55p/min from 50p/min.
- Picture messages are going up to 55p from 50p.
- International calls to Europe from the UK are going up to £1.50/min (currently £1/min).
- Calls to Ireland and the Channel Islands are going up from 50p/min to £1/min.
- International calls to the rest of the world from the UK are going up to £2/min from £1.60/min.
- International texts from the UK are going up to 55p (from 35p).
Will you be able to leave penalty-free?
As the price rises were only to out-of-allowance charges, not 'core' services, they are unlikely to be of material detriment to most customers. Only customers with material detriment (those whose total bill value after adding the new out-of-bundle allowance rates exceeds 5% of the bill value) are allowed to terminate their contract.
We have asked EE for a comment, but are yet to hear back.
What does EE say?
A spokesperson said: "Following feedback from Ofcom, we are now re-contacting customers identified as materially worse off to ensure that they're fully informed of the changes and the options available to them.
"These include the option to cancel the impacted contract without charge, change plan or purchase add-ons that will make using these services cheaper when compared to paying a per minute charge. We're sorry for any confusion this has caused."