CICRA (the Channel Islands Competition and Regulatory Authorities) has instructed telecommunications operators to allow consumers to break their fixed-term contracts on mobile, broadband or fixed lines if the terms are changed during the contract period.
In an Initial Notice sent to operators, CICRA has directed Sure, JT, Newtel and Airtel Vodafone to provide consumers with an opt-out when the terms of their contracts have been altered during the fixed period.
CICRA interim chief executive, Michael Byrne, said: “There are weaknesses in the current arrangements.
“Local operators’ decisions to vary a product offering during a fixed-term period, without recourse, negatively impacts on those consumers. For instance, if the amount of data included free in a mobile contract is reduced, during the fixed term, the end result is customers have to pay more for what was originally agreed.
“We are proposing to modify the licences of JT, Sure Jersey, Jersey Airtel and Newtel to reflect a more transparent and equitable method for variations,” he said.
Ofcom was investigating the same issue. It published its findings on 23 October 2013 and confirmed that UK consumers and small businesses should be allowed to exit their landline, broadband or mobile contract without penalty if their provider increased the cost of their monthly deal.
“The same options should also be available to consumers and small businesses in the Channel Islands,” Mr Byrne said.
CICRA’s proposal provides for a new licence condition that directs the operators to give consumers not less than two calendar months written notice of any increases to the unit price of services and, in turn, gives the customer the right to terminate the contract without penalty if the proposed variations are not acceptable to the customer
“We have also included a direction in the new licence condition that, at the same time as giving notice of the change, operators must inform consumers of the right to terminate,” Mr Byrne said.
The Initial Notice and the Draft Decision can be viewed at www.cicra.je or www.cicra.gg