back to article Ofcom warns telcos over hidden customer penalties

Telecoms companies must be clearer about additional charges they levy and must help customers to understand them better, telecoms regulator Ofcom has said. From April Ofcom will take action against any that do not comply with newly-clarified rules, it said. Telecoms contracts must comply with the Unfair Terms in Consumer …


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  1. Mike Crawshaw

    I wonder...

    If it will also cover exorbitant charges for exceeding a previously-undisclosed FUP limit?

  2. Jerome

    Free phones!

    Does this mean that every time a company offers a "free" mobile phone, they have to point out the cumulative cost over the lifetime of the contract, even when it's about a grand?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ofcom = toothless

    So BT can still charge me £4.50 for not paying by direct debit then, just so long as they tell me they will.

    Direct debit is not right for everyone, so why do i pay so much for wanting to simply get a bill and pay it.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not entirely on topic, but...

    ...can we make 'embiggen' one of those words that results in the writer being hung, drawn and quartered? Actually, you can skip the 'quartered', never really saw the point in it.

  5. ben
    Thumb Up

    get out of jail free card.

    Feel free to not sign the updated TOC and get out of any contract you are in. I sure will.

  6. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Not entirely on topic, but...

    Dear AC,



    Embiggening sub

  7. Simon Neill

    mmmmmm topic.

    "Actually, you can skip the 'quartered', never really saw the point in it."

    It helps with storage.

    "Direct debit is not right for everyone, so why do i pay so much for wanting to simply get a bill and pay it."

    I'm not saying the fee is reasonable, but I always understood it as being the extra man power required to process one off payments every month and the increased risk of missed/late payments over an automated DD. They basically want to encourage you to use DD as much as possible.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Simon Neill

    You say encourage, I say coerce.

    Charging more to settle your bill using legal tender is certainly a good way of alienating some of your customers. But hey, the telcos are all big enough to say fuck you, we don't care. As are my current bete-noir, Pickfords.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Won't work due to ..

    "If the charges only reflect the actual cost to the business of the customer's behaviour, though, then the notices about the charges can be less prominent."

    They will just say tht the higher charge is the cost to them and use creative accounting.

  10. Mark

    DD payments

    However, I don't notice any reduction in what you pay by DD when the schemes were introduced. All they did was increase payments if you DIDN'T use DD.

  11. Anonymous Coward


    "you can skip the 'quartered', never really saw the point in it."

    The point of quartering was to send the 4 parts and the head for display in various locations, as a warning to those who hadn't seen you being executed.

    I think that we should definitely keep that bit.

  12. Martin

    Using 'embiggen' in that way

    is perfectly cromulent.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What are the T&C that OFCOM are applying to telcos?

    The Register's editorial seems clear on the principle involved "Telecoms contracts must comply with the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations".

    But the URL linked OFCOM leaflet for consumers is devoid of any detail that's helpful.

    Take a simple point, about BT that OFCOM refused to address.

    Payment by Direct Debit to BT using BT's bankers, costs BT more in charges that payment by Direct Credit to BT using their bankers. There's no secret about this, banks publish their charges, and for BT's bank the charges for Direct Credit are about one third the charges for Direct Debit. The BT costs of producing a bill, and processing the payment internally after receipt of payment from their bank, are the same for Direct Credit and Direct Debit.

    But although payment by Direct Credit costs BT about one third the cost of bank payment charges by Direct Debit, BT chose to start to surcharge their customers by £4.50 for paying by Direct Credit.

    Obviously this is in breach of the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations, so BT think that they have circumvented the Regulations by creating a fiction: that payment by Direct Credit is to a separate company, despite the fact that the payment continues to be made to the same BT bank account that was used before this separate company was created, in order that a £4.50 charge could be "justified".

    I actually pay earlier using Direct Credit than the payment date specified under Direct Debit T&C, in order to make sure payment clears before the due date. Anyone paying late under Direct Credit can incur a late payment fee, that I don't object to provided BT have sent a timely bill. So when I pay by Direct Credit BT incurs lower charges, gets paid earlier, and can if necessary recoup late payment costs; but still insists on a £4.50 additional fee. It's a rip-off, in breach of the Regulations.

    OFCOM said to me that BT's action was justified and in line with similar telco's. They denied the £4.50 charge for payment by Direct Credit was in breach of the Regulations.

    Can anyone supply a copy of the actual OFCOM "newly-clarified rules" for telcos, please?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Direct debit whinge whinge whinge

    Why do people always whinge about BT and their non direct debit payment processing fee?

    All the other telecommunication companies charge a payment fee. Virgin charge £5 a month for not paying by direct debit. BT charge £1.50 a month.

    Vodafone charge me for wanting a paper bill!!

    Stop whinging about BT and whinge about them ALL!!

  15. Brezin Bardout

    DD payments

    Its a pity the incentive for the customer to choose paperless billing isn't quite as high as the non-direct debit penalties. After all, I'm sure it would save them a similar amount of time and money. Then again, I suppose it is to 'save the world'..

  16. Nebulo

    This is turning into comments on direct debit

    and quite right too. It sucks.

    My bank account is my bloody bank account, and I don't usually have enough floating around in it to let greedy companies help themselves when they will, no matter how much more convenient it may be for -them-. They should just work out the total cost of collecting the cash and stick the appropriate amount onto every bill, rather than advertising a price they won't honour if customers prefer a bit of control over their own meagre stash. Like they used to. And I ain't just talking telcos.

  17. Mark

    Fees for direct credit

    It really does seem like the UK has gone to shit since I left. BT deserve to go tits-up as they really are a detestable bunch of cocksmacks.

  18. Mark
    Paris Hilton

    re: Direct debit whinge whinge whinge

    Uh, if this weren't about BT but some other company that has a non-DD fee (and the ~1.5% for CC transactions doesn't count, you wanker, because the CC companies charge ~2% per transaction to the merchant) then we would be complaining about DD from them.

    Or should we only complain about something if we complain about EVERYONE who does it? If so, then don't complain about terrorist attacks from Muslims until you're complaining about terrorist attacks from Asians, Caucasians, Christians and all the other people who undertake terrorist attacks. This should help clear up the debates, yes?


  19. Wayland Sothcott Bronze badge

    Not just Broadband

    As the broadband market gets tougher they try to have as many hidden costs as possible whilst supplying you with the least amount of service possible whilst making it look like they are supplying the most service.

    The answer is simply, pay decent money for your broadband from a niche company.

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