Vodafone told to clarify T&Cs on SIM-only promotion

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Operator told by Advertising Standards Authority to make its ability to raise prices mid-contract clearer

Vodafone has been told to clarify the fact monthly charges aren’t fixed in the promotion of its SIM-only plans on its website.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) told Vodafone it must be made more obvious that prices can be raised during contracts, while investigating a complaint against the operator on the issue.

Vodafone argued its right to raise prices in line with the Retail Price Index was clearly outlined in the contract signed by any customers taking a SIM-only deal with the provider.

The ASA concluded: “We acknowledged that consumers had to agree to the terms and conditions prior to taking out a contract with Vodafone. However, we considered that because a monthly price was stated for each fixed-term contract, without any further qualification, consumers would be likely to understand that those prices would remain fixed for the entire term of the contract.

“We considered that the monthly price of a contract was likely to be of importance to consumers when deciding on a mobile phone contract and that the potential for it to increase, within the term of the contract, was a significant condition that needed to be stated clearly in the ad, without readers needing to click through to further web pages.

“Because the monthly prices were not qualified to make clear that they could be increased during the contract we concluded that they were misleading.”

A Vodafone spokesperson responded: “Today’s decision from the ASA relates to a single and specific section of text on our website covering our SIM only plans. It rules on a practice that has been seen as appropriate throughout the industry up to this point. We believe it would have been more helpful for the ASA to have issued industry wide guidance on advertising practice in this area, prior to making isolated decisions on single pieces of communication.

“While the ASA has been considering their position, Ofcom has also announced its consultation on price rises within the life of a contract, in which we are actively engaged. We would expect this consultation to provide greater clarity for the whole communications industry across all aspects of our activity.

“We are already looking at how we can improve the information that is given to customers when they join us or upgrade. We have not hidden the fact that prices can change during the term of a contract, and we understand that across our industry, mobile phone companies need to ensure that customers receive clear information. Within Vodafone we have already taken further steps to ensure that we do exactly this.”

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