Phone shops mislead customers over price hikes, says report

Mobile phone shops are misleading us about deals shooting up in price while our contract is running, according to a Which? report.

Mobile phone shops are misleading us about the possibility of our phone deals shooting up in price while the contract is still running. That's according to a report by Which? It found more than 80 per cent of shop staff failed to mention or even denied potential price hikes.

Quizzically punctuated consumer champions Which? sent mystery shoppers into phone shops like an army of ninjas sneaking into battle on behalf of mobile owners everywhere. They visited 39 outlets and asked staff if the price of the phone deal they were interested in would stay the same for the duration of the contract.

A whopping 82 per cent of those conversations saw staff give the undercover investigators the wrong information, failing to disclose that the advertised price could indeed rise during the length of the contract.

Many phone contracts contain clauses allowing the network to raise the tariff higher than the price agreed when you signed up. Such clauses are buried deep in the terms and conditions and are rarely spotted by customers.

Not only do mobile phone staff fail to highlight the offending clauses and potential price hikes, Which? reports the majority outright denied that a price rise could follow, even when asked directly.

Four out of five phone networks have raised prices on contracts in the past year. Customers who object are pointed to the Ts & Cs they signed, while those who wish to eject from their contracts are hit with early termination fees.

Such flim-flammery is worth £90m a year to the networks. I contacted them for a response, but at the time of writing, only O2 has responded. O2 says it has "reminded the teams in our stores that prices can always be subject to change", blaming shop staff rather than addressing the questionable practice of signing us to contracts that allow for potential price rises.

Those of us who have worked in shops know what the pressures to sell are like. Whether staff are deliberately misleading customers to make a sale or aren't trained properly by each network, I think the networks are acting in an underhand manner -- enough to prompt an Ofcom investigation, in fact. I mean, let's see how far we get if we all decide we want to pay a different amount each month than what was agreed at the start of the contract.

Have you been screwed over by your phone network? Have you ever worked in a phone shop? Are staff to blame or is it the networks that should be forced to change their ways? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page.

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About the author

Rich Trenholm is a senior editor at CNET where he covers everything from phones to bionic implants. Based in London since 2007, he has travelled the world seeking out the latest and best consumer technology for your enjoyment.

 

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