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Ofcom probe into telcos jacking-up charges halfway through contracts

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Mid-contract price rises implemented by telcos are currently being scrutinised by Blighty's communications regulator Ofcom, after it found a number of problems with customer subscriptions to landline, broadband and mobile services.

The watchdog said it was looking at ways to better protect punters from prices being jacked up halfway through their contracts with ISPs and mobile providers.

Ofcom said it planned to publish results of its consultation by the end of this year.

It is currently mulling over whether it is fair for price variation terms to be included in fixed-term contracts. Among other things, Ofcom will examine exactly how upfront providers are about the services they are offering when it comes to hiking prices midway through a contract.

The regulator said it had studied 1,644 complaints from customers about Ts&Cs changes during September 2011 to May 2012. It has also perused evidence from consumer protection magazine Which?. It concluded from those findings that:

Our analysis shows that many consumers complained they were not made aware of the potential for price rises in what they believed to be fixed contracts. Some consumers felt that communications providers should not be able to impose price increases during the life of a contract, and, if they do, the consumer should be able to exit the contract without penalty. Others complained specifically about the amount of the price increase and how it would impact them.

Ofcom agreed that customers should be "treated fairly" regarding such contracts and said it was consulting "on ways to address consumer concerns".

As it stands, Ofcom's rules state that mobile, phone and broadband providers have to give their customers a minimum of one month's notice regarding any major change to contractual terms. Subscribers can then cut loose from the contract without being stung with a penalty for walking away early. ®

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