Telecommunications watchdog Oftel is taking tough action to help protect consumers from unfair contracts with their telecoms service provider.
Under new regulations - the first of their kind to be introduced by a European regulator - Oftel will be able to amend or remove inappropriate or unfair terms within service providers' contracts with customers.
This means the redefinition of "unfair" clauses in fixed line and mobile contracts - ranging from the right to terminate contracts without notice, the right to increase prices, penalties and the right of final decision.
Steve Thorpe, membership services secretary of the Telecommunications Users Association (TUA), said the powers are long overdue and that the crucial test will be how Oftel enforces the measures.
He said the TUA frequently receives complaints from consumers about mobile services where terms and conditions had not been accurately set out, or even where no contacts are given at all. Prepaid credit cards for fixed line services were another area of complaint, he said.
Oftel has also set out the type and quality of information that service providers must include in their contracts. This comprises the types of maintenance service offered and compensation or refund arrangements for subscribers if the contracted service is not met.
David Edmonds, Oftel's director general of telecommunications, said: "Telecoms companies have a duty to consumers to set out the service they are providing within their contract in clear and unambiguous terms.
"Consumers should not be taken by surprise by hidden terms and penalty clauses. Clear and understandable contracts will give consumers more confidence when shopping around for the best deals."
Alban Thurston, an analyst at researcher Ovum, said the UK is the first European country to respond to European Union directives to issue standards on telecoms contracts.
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