updated 12:07 pm EDT, Wed October 23, 2013
British carriers must allow free disconnections after contract increases
Internet service providers and carriers in the United Kingdom must allow customers to exit a contract without penalty, according to new guidance from Ofcom. The British regulator has clarified how existing rules must be interpreted by telecommunications companies, with the new Guidance statement set to come into effect early next year.
The Guidance advises that companies supplying mobile phone, landline, or broadband services must tell affected customers about changes to contract terms, pricing, or anything contract-related that will affect their service, with exceptions for tax changes or regulatory levies. Ofcom will also regard any increase to the basic monthly charge for services as "materially detrimental to consumers," with providers having to provide at least 30 days notice before any price rises, as well as allowing customers to avoid fees when exit their contract early.
The clarification is seen as beneficial to subscribers, with Ofcom Consumer Group Director Claudio Pollack stating "We think the sector rules were operating unfairly in the provider's favor, with consumers having little choice but to accept price increases or pay to exit their contract. We're making it clear that any increase to the monthly subscription price should trigger a consumer's right to leave their contract, without penalty."
While the changes will be good news for consumers, it will not help anyone currently locked into a monthly contract, as it will only apply to new contracts created once the Guidance is adopted in three months time.