OFCOM tackles Telecomm Direct Debit charges
Quote from OFCOM
At Ofcom, we believe that healthy competition is the best way to make sure consumers enjoy the benefit of new services and lower prices. If, for example, you have a phone at home, a mobile, broadband or pay TV, you’ll have seen their prices fall over recent years.
However, the main price you pay isn’t always the only price you pay. Sometimes, extra charges come into play, for a variety of reasons. Examples include:
- if you choose to pay by cash or cheque, rather than using a Direct Debit from your bank (“non-direct debit charges”);
- if you want a fully itemised bill, not just a summary;
- if you pay late, or if your payment doesn’t go through (e.g. if your cheque bounces);
- if you cancel a contract before the minimum period is up;
- if you cancel a service even after the minimum period is up; or
- if you stop taking a service, but still have to pay until the end of a notice period.
At Ofcom we’ve received many complaints about these small-print charges. A lot of these complaints have been about non-direct debit charges. We’ve had a lot of letters from MPs about this, and there have been a number of newspaper articles. However, we’ve also had complaints about other extra charges. In the last six months we’ve had almost as many complaints about charges when you cancel your contract early. We’ve had complaints about a number of different companies.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that firms are doing anything wrong, but it’s our job to make sure that companies play fair, and that ordinary customers know what to look out for.
We’ve also heard worries that these extra charges hit people with the lowest incomes. For example, they may not have a bank account and then have to pay more because they can’t set up a Direct Debit.