Ofcom clamps down on unfair charges

Ofcom is clamping down on telecom and pay-TV companies over unfair charges hidden in the small print of bills. The media regulator says companies have until April to alter terms and conditions to comply with the law.

The Ofcom guidance published today (December 19) also says advertising strategies should include information on extra charges, such as non-direct debit fees, in a “prominent and transparent way” to make it easy for consumers to understand the charges.

The new guidance outlines that communication providers must meet their obligations under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulation 1999. According to the body, the new guidelines could also provide consumers the benefits of competition.

It suggests that non-direct debit charges should be clear and limited to the cost of dealing with payment. Charges for itemised billing should not usually be more than £1.50 a bill and consumers who end contracts early should not have to pay more than the payments left under the contract or should even pay less to reflect the costs providers save through early termination.

Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards says: “When consumers shop for the best deal, they should be able to easily assess the true cost on offer.” Ofcom wants to make sure that telecoms and pay-TV companies are “up front and fair” about all their charges. The guidelines follow an Ofcom review.

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