Services and Billing

I don’t have access to the internet so I can’t view my itemised bill online. Why should I have to pay to receive a paper one?

Ofcom recognises that some consumers may have little choice and/or prefer to receive their paper bills by post.

Suppliers are likely to incur costs for providing consumers with itemised and paper bills. So, some suppliers apply an extra charge to customers who choose to receive their bills in this way. Generally, these charges are likely to be considered as part of the package price the customer pays for the service(s). As such, these terms are  likely to be exempt from the fairness test under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 (the “Regulations”) provided  suppliers make sure that terms relating to charges for itemised and paper billing are presented to customers upfront when entering a contract and are clear and transparent. It is therefore important that providers comply with the Regulations.

Providers must also comply with General Conditions 9, 10 and 12 made by Ofcom under the Communications Act 2003.  General Condition 9 requires that providers enter into contracts with consumers that, among other things, set out in a clear, comprehensive and easily accessible form details of prices and tariffs, including any charges for itemised and paper bills.  General Condition 10 requires communications providers to publish clear and up to date information on applicable prices and tariffs, and on its standard terms and conditions.  Again, this includes the existence and amount of any charges that apply to receiving itemised and paper bills are clear.

General Condition 12.1 requires communications providers to provide to Subscribers, on request, and either at no extra charge or for a reasonable fee, a basic level of itemised billing. Under General Condition 12.4, a communications provider is not subject to this requirement where the subscriber is being provided with prepaid services; and the subscriber has an alternative means, free of charge, of adequately monitoring his/her usage and expenditure.

In addition, in 2014, when UK Regulations implementing the European Consumer Rights Directive are in force, suppliers should obtain consumers’ express consent to any extra charges for itemised and paper bills.  They should not use a ‘tick-box’ approach that requires consumers to untick boxes in order to avoid charges.

If a supplier wants to alter the cost of providing itemised and paper bills within the term of a contract, they must consider, among other things, whether the change is likely to be of material detriment to their customers.

Under General Condition 9.6, communications providers must provide customers for whom a change is likely to be of material detriment with one month’s notice of the change. Customers must also be informed at the same time that they are entitled to terminate their contract without penalty if the change is not acceptable to them.

For more information on changes to the terms of your contract please see here.

Not all providers charge extra and where charges are applied these may vary so it’s worth shopping around. We are aware that some providers offer a number of ways for consumers to access their bills without incurring a charge. These include online as well as phone-based billing services.

You may also find it useful to note that there are provisions made under the Communications Act 2003 that protect certain vulnerable customers from being charged for receiving bills. General Condition 15.9 requires providers of fixed and mobile telephone services to make bills and other information available, free of charge and in a format reasonably acceptable, to any subscriber who is blind or whose vision is impaired.

For more information on itemised and paper billing charges see Ofcom’s guidance on Unfair Terms in Contracts for communications services here.