The Consumers? Association (CA) has accused mobile phone airtime suppliers of being ?immature? and called for even more drastic changes to customer contracts than those announced yesterday (see separate story).
The consumer watchdog wants contract terms to be cut even shorter, despite promises from all but one of the airtime suppliers to amend their conditions after legal threats from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).
Colin Meeks, the CA's telecomms expert, said: ?The industry needs constant pressure. Companies have shown themselves to be immature - no other industry would treat consumers this way. Is it really the way forward to offer phones for 10p and tie people into contracts for one and a half years?? Meek added: ?I would like to see companies win consumers on quality of service and price rather than ridiculous contracts with high rental charges over a long period of time.?
He praised the deals offered by Car Phone Warehouse, which allows customers to pay the full cost of the phone and sign shorter contract periods. The CA has been working with the Federation of Communications Services (FCS), the mobile phone industry body, to develop a code of practice, but said the industry needs better regulations. An FCS spokesperson said the code would be published ?within the next couple of months?.
The suppliers, which include BT, One 2 One, Motorola Tel-co and Cellnet Call Connections, agreed, where applicable, to remove substantial disconnection charges, reduce notice periods from 90 days to one month, and introduce change-of-mind clauses.
The industry has boomed on the back of cheap handsets but contracts often bind people in for up to 15 months, even if they no longer use their phones or want to change suppliers. They then have to give up to 90 days' notice for disconnection. Suppliers say consumers are tied into long contracts because they subsidise the low cost cellular phones.
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