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Voda: Brit kids will drown in TIDAL WAVE of FILTH - it's all Ofcom's fault

Make networks admit price changes? Noooo!

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Vodafone UK reckons it will be strong-armed into sending smutty text messages to kids, thanks to a new proposal by Ofcom.

The watchdog wants operators to set prices for the duration of a contract in stone or ensure customers are notified ahead of any changes.

Vodafone's full response to the proposal hasn't been published yet, although it should go live online later this week. But the operator has been briefing its media contacts with news that Ofcom's plans will require operators to notify all customers, even the kiddies, every time a sex chatline changes its pricing.

The Guardian revealed Vodafone's view that the new rules will "require communications providers to 'spam' notify every customer of every change to the price of any service, including clearly inappropriate notifications such as advising children of changes to adult premium rate prices".

The UK regulator is consulting Voda and other networks to establish whether operators can be forced to fix pricing for the duration of a contract, rather than changing it at a whim without the customer getting the chance to opt out.

Ofcom reckons punters should be allowed to escape a contract if the price changes, but that means informing them of the change. Vodafone believes that applies to additional services (such as sex lines) just as it does to core services (such as monthly fee and call prices).

That's clearly not Ofcom's intention and the phrase "grasping at straws" leaps to mind. A small change to the wording of the proposed new rules would end any disagreement, but if one can rubbish the entire proposal on that basis then why not.

We don't know the position of the other operators - their responses will be redacted before publication as Ofcom cuts out all the competitive data - but the ability to change prices is part of their business, so it's hard to see them being in favour.

Fixing a price over two years is hard, given the difficulty in predicting inflation, but at the moment the risk lies entirely with the customer as the small print allows variation in costs. Setting the price in stone will probably means everyone pays more, but it would also make shorter contracts more attractive and shift the risk onto the network operator.

Certainly that's the overwhelming view across the 250 responses already published by Ofcom, with operators getting very little sympathy from Brits who have piled in to tell their own stories.

But a dissenting voice can be heard from Universal Utilities Ltd: it points out that Ofcom's pricing proposal [one-page PDF], which shows the number of complaints from the public about changing fees, reveals that the vast majority of gripes involve a single unnamed mobile network: Operator A accounts for more than 80 per cent of complaints about price changes (1,344 of 1,644 across the industry).

Universal reckons Ofcom should just slap that particular operator about a bit and forget the entire matter. We don't know who "Operator A" is, we certainly don't know if it's Vodafone, but it is reasonable to ask whether this proposal would even exist if "Operator A" hadn't generated so much bad feeling. ®

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