back to article Ofcom asks networks, ISPs: Hey, wouldn't it be nice if you let customers know the best deal once their contract's up?

UK regulator Ofcom wants ISPs and networks to tell customers when their contract is up and inform them of better deals. The consultation (PDF) was launched today alongside a review of broadband prices. The proposal would apply to TV and phone providers too, across both consumer and business markets. Ofcom already has a …

  1. DJV Silver badge

    Yes, but...

    ...that would require ISPs to act in a decent manner and not out of greed and self-interest. I suspect that, for most of the well known ones*, the latter is far too ingrained for them to do the former.

    *Yeah, there are exceptions - they are few and far between unfortunately.

  2. Rich 2 Silver badge
    WTF?

    Contracts

    How did we ever get to this stage where mobiles and broadband are on (usually 1 or 2 year) contracts?

    There was a time when you paid your money, took your choice, and if you didn't like it you gave one month's notice and went elsewhere. Simple, transparent, and none of this "£X off for 2 years and then we'll hike the price. Oh, and if you're an existing customer, you can go and f*** yourself " crap.

    1. Graham 32

      Re: Contracts

      This.

      Currently the end of a contract is a double win for the supplier. The long contract term is supposedly there to make sure they make money back from the setup costs they usually waive. After the fixed term ends they are presumably making much more money from you each month as the setup cost has been recouped... and then they up the monthly price too!

      The regulator should demand the cost out of contract is no more than in contract.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Contracts

      How did we ever get to this stage where mobiles and broadband are on (usually 1 or 2 year) contracts?

      Because it avoids the big upfront payment that would otherwise be required. If one supplier is saying "£350 for the phone, and £20/month, no contract" and the other says "Only £30/month, with a free phone, and a free upgrade every two years (2 year contract)" the second one looks better for people who can't find £350 in one go, and hey it's only two years. The phone companies rely on enough people not changing their phone immediately the two years are up to cover the extra costs of the cheaper monthly payments.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Contracts

      How did we ever get to this stage where mobiles and broadband are on (usually 1 or 2 year) contracts?

      Because most people found it easier to fork out twenty or thirty quid a month rather than having to find £300-400 - and that was back in the day before phone makers realised that the gullible could be easily fleeced for £1,000+

      Now we've got the value camp of people buying SIM free handsets, we've got an intermediate group buying a handset on contract and wanting to keep it beyond the contract (to whom this proposal applies). And then there's the group that want to always have the newest, shiniest, and who are happy to be perpetually paying full contract prices, renewing as soon as the contract ends (or permits an "upgrade").

      But, as usual, Ofcom have flunked consumer protection, in favour of cosying up to the industry. MNOs should not be required to tell their customers they might get a better deal, they should be compelled by law to put customers onto an regulated airtime only contract when the handset's paid off.

      Change is likely to come - there's a very slow moving trend that is pushing for all consumer regulation to be separated out from technical/asset regulatory bodies (Ofwat, Ofgem Ofcom, possibly FCA and CAB), and combined into a single consumer regulator, applying common standards for most consumer services. Its a long way off, but I look forward to the happy day when the clowns at Ofcom lose their consumer protection responsibilities to a body far more capable of doing the job.

  3. Martin Summers Silver badge

    What they really should be forcing mobile providers to do is automatically reduce your monthly bill by the amount the phone hire purchase cost was. In fact it should happen with all providers utility or otherwise, they may even see less churn as a result.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They want churn to allow them the illusion of growth. It keeps the shareholders happy. The next stage after that is to follow the American dream and start hitting our political parties with bungs to remove regulation. When I look at the prices they pay in America and Canada I can see why these corporations want that model elsewhere.

    2. druck Silver badge

      O2 already does.

  4. Gary Heard

    How about a certain Satellite TV company, with whom I managed to reduce my bill by £29 per month by upgrading to their latest "platform". Only happened because I spoke with someone in their call centre (who was really helpful), the website "offer" would have had me paying more!!

    1. Rob

      This is where the suppliers are winning, they hope that all customers go through a web channel to renew which usually ends up with a crap deal. In all cases phone up and haggle, if they have it built into their model the human at the end will be versed in getting you a better deal that isn't published on their site. That is definitely true of a certain TV satellite provider I know of and I have been able to get better deals in person with EE as well.

    2. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      I managed to reduce my monthly bill from £48 to £40 by adding Netflix to my package. Okay so I lost the kiddies package in the shuffle but there are no kids in my house anyway.

      It's not all 'great deal!' though because they never notified me of the results of their package revamp in the new year so I've sort of(*) overpaid for the last six months.

      (*)Only sort of because I was getting the kiddies package as part of my chosen package.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is a contract mobile locked to that supplier? If so - what happens after the contract is finished and you want to use it with a different supplier's SIM?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They are obliged to unlock it.

      1. VinceH

        You might also find they are unlocked anyway. The last phone I got on contract was a Sammy Galaxy S3 - and I was playing around with someone else's phone trying to solve a SIM problem for them, and tried their SIM in my phone, completely forgetting that it was on contract and probably locked.

        It turned out it wasn't locked.

        The other person's phone, however, was - to a different network than the SIM they had. :)

        1. katrinab Silver badge

          If you got the phone from Carphone Warehouse, they are always unlocked.

  6. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    What is this out of contract thingie?

    Err what is this out of contract thingie?

    I recall paying that once in the last 3 years - when I had to make a phone call while in the mountains of in Monte Negro. According to Vodafone Monte Negro is not in Europe. It is not even in the "Rest of the World". It is somewhere in another galaxy (based on the roaming rates).

    That's about it though...

    OK, I know I am being flippant, but people should really read all the small print, think how and where they will use it and chose an appropriate contract and provider. Instead of, for example, choosing Three and then looking with dismay and horror at their bill after travelling within 5 miles of the Serbian or Turkish border.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: What is this out of contract thingie?

      I'd like to do that. Unfortunately, I have been and can give you the results. I have no results. I'm not looking at U.K. contracts, but I assume they're much the same.

      For each provider I check, they have several different plans, all of which seem very similar. I'm a very simple customer; I already have my hardware and I don't need very much data. Each plan has the following variables:

      Minutes/texts provided

      Data cap

      Data speed

      Data at high speed cap

      Roaming costs

      Price difference for different number of lines

      Very few of this matters to me. Ideally, I'd like a plan where I have a specific price for each type a thing and just live with it, although I'm fine with caps. Whenever a plan as simple as this exists, prices are much higher than all the other plans where details are less clear. Or sometimes, they will have more complexity to make up for it, such as some plans where there is also a cost for the sim itself (I don't know why). I have found no resource that allows for easy comparisons, and I have had enough conversations with the people at the mobile providers to know that I dislike having conversations with the people at the mobile providers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What is this out of contract thingie?

        There is also the factor of cell coverage - which is presumably less easy to quantify without actually testing it.

    2. Insert sadsack pun here

      Re: What is this out of contract thingie?

      " looking with dismay and horror at their bill after travelling within 5 miles of the Serbian or Turkish border..."

      Although it has a border with Serbia, Montenegro doesn't have a border with Turkey (well, not unless Erdogan's done something pretty dramatic overnight).

      Are you sure you weren't in Bulgaria, which is the only country to have borders with Serbia and Turkey...?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ofcom Asks...

    ...when your spouse is sick of your garbage, wouldn't it be nice if you were to offer the names of three people that'd make wayyyyy better mates than you?

    ...when your term of office is nearing completion, wouldn't it be nice if you told your constituents about all of the great ideas of the people who will be running against you in the next election?

    ...when it comes to an absolutely blithering lack of understanding of free markets, can Ofcom possibly be beat?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ofcom Asks...

      "...when your term of office is nearing completion,"

      It is more akin to an elected person having to tell you all the personal deals they have cut that benefited from them holding that position. The Westminster parliament has a register of members' interests - which MPs sometimes forget to update.

      It recently emerged that the recent Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, is paid over £200k a year for writing a newspaper column.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Ofcom Asks...

        "It is more akin to an elected person having to tell you all the personal deals they have cut that benefited from them holding that position. "

        I will have to go and re-read the article then. I completely missed the bit where Ofcom were telling providers that they had to provide a break-down of their own business model and reveal that X% of the contract price was paying for the phone and that therefore the on-going contract price would henceforth be reduced by X%.

        It looked to me like forcing providers to spam their soon-to-leave customers with new sales opportunities rather than letting customers do their own research.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Are you serious OFCOM?

    It's like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas.

    Typical OFCOM fudge, just to gain cheap PR. Seen to be doing something meaningful, and ISPs and MNOs going their own merry way.

    The toothless tiger must be consigned to the history bin. Maybe they should have a consultation on it themselves about disbanding.

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