ORANGE and T-Mobile customers face higher phone bills after parent company Everything Everywhere (EE) announced it will raise prices for those on pay monthly contracts.
• EE price rise condemned by consumer campaigners
• 3.3 per cent hike criticised as users will potentially see prices go up mid-contract
EE blamed inflation for the 3.3 per cent rise on Orange and T-Mobile contracts, which will take effect on 10 April and 9 May respectively.
Consumer group Which? estimated a 79p increase for more than five million affected subscribers would add up to almost £52 million in profits for the company.
An EE spokesman insisted that contracts subject to the rise were never fixed price and that it was important for customers to read the terms and conditions before signing up. He added that EE was introducing fixed-price contracts, insisting it was the first to do so.
The spokesman said: “The terms and conditions state that prices can be increased mid-contract, by the same [rate] as the retail prices index.
“Customers are encouraged to read the terms and conditions and have a 14-day period in which to change their minds. If customers are unhappy they can break their contract if they pay a fee for leaving us early.”
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: “It is outrageous that Everything Everywhere is forcing T-Mobile and Orange customers to collectively pay almost £52m more per year for mobile phone contracts they thought were fixed.
“We want Ofcom to confirm it will take tough action against these price rises and listen to the 40,000 people who have joined our campaign to make sure that fixed really does mean fixed.”
Adam Kirby, telecoms expert at uSwitch.com, claimed the new fixed-price option from EE was a “victory” and positive for mobile phone users. He said the firm deserved praise for taking such action before Ofcom passes its verdict on contract rules.
He said: “Many consumers have been left feeling misled and out of pocket after signing up to a fixed-term contract, only for the price to go up in the middle of it. The option to fix the line rental element of a mobile contract for a small premium is a victory for both consumer protection and clarity.
“These moves equate to a huge step in the right direction for better consumer protection and choice, so we applaud EE for being the first to make a move and look forward to seeing other providers follow.”
A spokeswoman for Ofcom said it was wrapping up a consultation into mid-contract price rises launched in January in the next two weeks and expected to reach a decision in June.
She said: “Ofcom is aware of the pricing changes announced by EE. While rules allow for contracts to include price increases in certain circumstances, Ofcom is consulting on how to better protect consumers from price rises during fixed contracts.”