Services and Billing

Can a telecoms provider change the terms of my contract?

man looking at billWhen you take out a broadband or phone deal it’s understandable that you expect to get what you signed up for.

But sometimes a communications provider may be able to alter the terms and conditions of your original contract.

They can do this so long as they follow certain Ofcom rules, called General Conditions, and general consumer law, including the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations which set out the basis on which terms and conditions of a contract may be unfair.

Under Ofcom’s rules (General Condition 9.6), if a communications provider wants to alter a contract’s terms and conditions, including raising prices, they must consider, among other things, whether the change will be of material detriment to their customers.

Communications providers must provide customers for whom a change is likely to be of material detriment with one month’s notice of the change.

At the same time, customers must also be informed that they are entitled to terminate their contract without penalty if the change is not acceptable to them.

Ofcom has issued guidance which explains that we are likely to treat any price increase to the agreed core subscription charge (however constructed and described in the contract terms) during the fixed term of a telecommunications contract as a modification that is of, or is likely to be of, material detriment to consumers and small business customers (no more than 10 employees).

In the event of any such price increase, Ofcom is likely to take the view that those customers should:

(a) be given at least one month’s notice of the price increase and of their ability to exit the contract without penalty if the proposed increase is unacceptable; and

(b) be allowed to exit their contract without penalty if they choose to exercise that right.

By subscription charge, we mean the recurring (usually monthly) amount that you pay for an inclusive allowance of services (e.g. for mobile users, the core subscription charge usually includes a monthly allowance of call minutes, number of texts and data usage) as agreed at point of sale. 

  • You may agree that different prices apply at different times (e.g. £10 in year 1 of a contract and £12 in year 2).  As long as these prices are clear enough and you agree to them, you would not be able to end the contract when the later agreed price is applied.

If you are affected by a change to your contract, in the first instance you should speak to your provider about your concerns.

If the problem relates to a particular term or condition, you can log a complaint with Ofcom

Updated: August 2015