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Watchdog lauds better phone contract refund terms

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The UK's major mobile phone retailers have pledged to make it easier for punters to cancel contracts if there's poor network coverage, independent advisory body the Communications Consumer Panel (CCP) said today.

The CCP has been lobbying networks and the retailers that sell their airtime contracts to provide a standard policy that would allow users who take out a contract but can't get decent coverage to back out of that contract.

It has had some success, it said. Retailer Carphone Warehouse introduced a 14-day coverage returns policy in September, and its rival, Phones4u, will introduce such a policy, also with a 14-day period, in 2011.

Next year will also see Orange and T-Mobile announce a post-merger coverage cancellation programme. Currently, Orange doesn't have one - it leaves refunds to the discretion of individual shop managers, said the CCP - and T-Mobile has a seven-day cancellation period. As, incidentally, does Vodafone.

The CCP called on both cellcos to extend the period to the 14 days it recommends. T-Mobile and Orange parent Everything Everywhere should apply the same period to Orange, it said.

Unfortunately, the CCP can merely make suggestions, not enforce them. While it advises communications watchdog Ofcom, the better known organisation doesn't have to accept the CCP's recommendations.

However, it said it has persuaded O2, 3, Virgin Media and Tesco Mobile to make sure their staff known about their companies' 14-day coverage cancellation policies. Unannounced visits to many of their retail outlets by CCP staff showed that these policies are not always adhered to. ®

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