Have you ever signed up to a new phone package at an unbeatable price only to find that when the first phone bill drops onto the mat, the price is simply not anywhere near what you thought you were going to be paying? Welcome to the world of bill shock.
Who is Bill Shock?
No it's not a late night comedian. Far from it. Bill shock is traditionally associated with hundreds of pounds worth roaming charges being applied to your mobile bill when you return home from your family trip to Florida (Fortunately that’s less likely to happen now with the new EU roaming regulations where the concept of roaming has been essentially eradicated). However, a different kind of bill shock is the one where we get suckered into the headline rate of a phone deal, only to find the price on the bill is higher (It's never lower is it? Funny that).
Unlimited internet, calls, money and hugs for 99p per month for life
We’ve all seen them. And we always buy into them. However, the devil is in the detail and you can bet your bottom dollar that weaning your way through the small print will reveal a myriad of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ (aka clauses) that means the final price on your bill is most probably going to change. It might not change today, or tomorrow, but it will.
We’ve seen the classic broadband for £1 per month for the first year (then £45 per month thereafter minimum contract term 3 years). It’s a practice that is absolutely rife in the industry and how trading standards hasn’t picked up on it heaven knows (actually, I do know, most telcos are run off state owned networks). I regularly speak to customers that say ‘yeah, but company X is offering me 1 million calls for 99p a year. Beat that.’ and sure as eggs are eggs, they’ll call us back a few weeks later complaining that they are getting ripped off and want to move to buzzbox. Of course, they can’t do that, they signed the bullet proof 5 year contract that (unfortunately) you will find almost impossible to get out of (you can pay an early termination charge but that’s equally as painful). I can hear them whimpering down the phone as I hang up the call.
Without blowing our own trumpet, we literally have our customers ringing us up shocked, saying ‘wow, when you said it was £5 a month, I couldn’t believe it actually said £5 on the bill’. That’s not right – you don’t go to Tesco’s and find they’ve added 20% to the final bill for ‘trolley rental’, ‘fast track queue’ and ‘in-date products’ but it’s absolutely standard in the telecoms world. One customer was paying £100 a month for ‘handset rental’ and you should have seen the 15 year old, spittle coated crumb encrusted relics they were ‘renting’. The old adage is true, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Keep in mind that wholesale line rental prices hover around the £11 mark no matter who you are, so if someone is offering line rental at 50p a month, they will be sure as damned making the difference up later in the contract.
Where is this going?
OK Stu, you’ve had a good rant, where are you going with this? The long and short of it is change – and it has to start with us. We need ask the telcos exactly what we are going to be paying – record the call if you can – if they quote a price and you tell them you’re recording them, it would stand up legally if you had to take it further when they start billing you more. Secondly, we need industry change, and it probably has to go via OFCOM (they’re pretty sympathetic to this plight but things move slowly over there). And finally - stay sharp and be safe.