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Ofcom Probes UK ISP BT Over Clarity of Customer Contract Info.

Monday, Jan 23rd, 2023 (10:09 am) - Score 3,864
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The UK telecoms and media regulator, Ofcom, has this morning opened an investigation into broadband ISP and telecoms giant BT (including subsidiaries EE and Plusnet), which focuses upon their compliance with its obligation to provide customers with clear and simple contract information before they sign up to a new deal.

The case actually represents somewhat of a merger and continuation of the investigation that Ofcom launched into EE last October 2022 (here), which focused upon the exact same issue. During the course of that probe, Ofcom received new information, which gave them “reason to suspect that Plusnet – another BT subsidiary – may also have failed to comply with these requirements.”

The regulator’s position is thus that, if EE and Plusnet might have breached the rules, then the same could also be true of BT – all three are now to be investigated.

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A Quick Recap

The market regulator introduced a number of new consumer protection measures on 17th June 2022 (here). The relevant change (General Conditions C1.3 to C1.7 and C5.16) for today’s case is the one that requires broadband and mobile operators to provide customers with a short, one-page summary of the main contract terms before entering a contract, including clear examples of how any price increases will affect the price they pay.

The change was designed to help people avoid being caught out by surprise price rises, which is particularly important because it comes at a time when household budgets are under heavy strain. The summary must also include key information about the broadband speed of the service, price, and length of the contract. It also requires firms to set out the terms and conditions if a customer decides to end their contract early.

Customers with disabilities can also request to receive the documents in an accessible format (e.g. large print or Braille).

Ofcom’s Statement

On 4 October 2022, Ofcom opened an investigation into EE’s compliance with General Conditions C1.3 to C1.7 and C5.16 under case reference CW/01262/08/22. Ofcom subsequently received information which gives it reason to suspect that Plusnet may also have failed to comply with these requirements. This investigation will therefore consider if BT has contravened General Conditions C1.3 to C1.7 and C5.16 as a result of suspected breaches by each of its subsidiaries, EE and Plusnet. We will gather further information and update this page as our investigation progresses.

The investigation into EE under case reference CW/01262/08/22 will now close, and any information gathered to date will be taken forward within the remit of the above investigation into BT, reference CW/01265/11/22.

Investigations like this have a habit of being quite complex affairs, which can take a fair amount of time to complete. In that sense, the expansion of Ofcom’s original probe into EE will no doubt require even more time to reach a solid conclusion. We wouldn’t be at all surprised if the final verdict didn’t drop until sometime in 2024, although there will almost certainly be a further update on progress later this year.

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At the time of writing we haven’t yet had a comment from BT, although this is what an EE spokesperson told us last year, after Ofcom opened their original probe: “We want our customers to be fully informed and we make sales information upfront, clear and transparent. We are fully engaged with Ofcom during the course of this investigation.”

UPDATE 1:32pm

BT has furnished us with a comment, but it’s identical to the one they gave as EE last year (see above).

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Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
14 Responses
  1. Avatar photo John says:

    A probe is not enough, they need to BAN them from fleecing people with +15% increases

    1. Avatar photo awelshman says:

      BT beyond limits…….on what they charge

  2. Avatar photo anonymous says:

    And so it begins.

  3. Avatar photo anonymous says:

    In my opinion, a dinosaur organisation that believes in fleecing customers year after year, awarding it’s directors/board with huge pay and shares and other benefits whilst refusing to pay their staff a decent wage or inflation increase and removing any benefits like staff cafe’s/restaurants etc at more remote sites.

  4. Avatar photo anonymous says:

    oh, and one that is always last to the table with any innovation because it takes them too long to agree on investment and required, whilst nimble organisations come in and just do it. By the time BT have it signed of, they install either limited technology or out of date whilst competitors try and future proof in their implementation.

  5. Avatar photo Winston Smith says:

    Any particular reason for comments being closed on the VM Gigabit discount article? It’s surely not that controversial.

    1. Avatar photo Matt says:

      Usually people whinge about coverage of one provider vs another – when the latter don’t release a PR for it.

      Or they whinge because there’s so many (see Black Friday)

      Basically it’s usually so Mark doesn’t need to babysit so much.

  6. Avatar photo Anthony says:

    CPI increases are a scam that just cause people distress.

  7. Avatar photo anonymous says:

    Its not just the CPI/RPi – it’s the + 3.9% added on top as well.

    If you stay with a provider they end up cumulatively doing this every year post contract, and you end up as an example with £70 per month bill (and growing yearly after that) when new customers get it at the original £40 per month. Basically, you have no choice but to TRY and haggle or keep swapping around providers and the incompetence that often comes during swapping over; else you get royally milked.

    Often the new customer rates stay at a constant over time; or not much of an increase where they do go up – while those out of contract rise steeply every year they stay after that.

  8. Avatar photo Jonathan says:

    BT are anything but transparent. Renewed my broadband last week and asked about the price increase the advisor said they couldn’t comment at all on price increases in march. Quite rude in fact. I wanted to know if you had to be a customer for a full year first otherwise an annual inflation increase in 2 months doesn’t make sense. Couldn’t confirm or deny this. Tried to revert the package within the cooling off period, called 3 times and been fobbed off each time. Asked for a complaint to be logged and even that was a lie just gave me the ticket number for the call. My advice is to stay well clear or BT. Of course will be changing operator in April when my contract comes to an end.

  9. Avatar photo steven smith says:

    I got my internet with ee and they put me on bt and I don’t know why when I signed up with ee

  10. Avatar photo Bob says:

    The applicable law is the Consumers Right Act 2015. IT says key terms MUST be made prominent and in many case with ISP;s they do not appear to comply with that

    Prominent means they cannot hide it in the small print. In general anything financial is a key term as is Early termination

    T&C’s cannot override your rights as in the Consumer Rights Act

    Midterm price increase on Fixe deals may well break the Consumer rights act unless it is clearly spelt out

    1. Avatar photo Iain says:

      Precisely. This.

      There’s also The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, which offers protection.

  11. Avatar photo bert says:

    friend of mine moved house and decided to take the services at the new address rather than have to pay a huge cancellation fee.

    it turns out they BT decided to put her in another 2 year contract. That wasnt explained very well at all. She tried to cancel since as her original contract had 6 months left.

    I would rather go without than go anywhere near this sham of an organisation.

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