Mobile retailers are misleading buyers on cancellations

The Communications Consumer Panel has discovered that over half of consumers in the UK – 56 percent of those surveyed – hadn’t been told what the score was with cancelling contracts suffering from coverage problems when buying in-store.

Consumers must be properly informed from the start of the sales pitch when they ask legitimate questions about both coverage and cancellation, but this apparently isn’t the case. It’s said that staff at shops have to deal with the fine print of so many different policies and contracts that they end up struggling to tell the buyer what the deal is.

Not to mention we’re fairly sure certain stores operate on sales commission. No skint student wants to miss a sale on a 36-month contract.

Operators and retailers, the panel found, have varying policies. Some operators, says the report, would not allow customers to cancel their phone contracts even if they had absolutely no coverage at all – so they could be locked in for years on a contract with a phone that’s completely useless. 

It may not come as a surprise to anyone who has gone through the process of cancelling SIMs, changing PAC-codes or starting a new contract that the process can be baffling and unclear. The Consumer Panel is planning to standardise a minimum 14-day time limit cancellation policy for poor or no coverage to protect buyers. It’s also trying to give consumers the right to cancel a contract if coverage doesn’t “meet their needs”. This is long overdue but also will be tough to regulate.

As it stands, though – once you’re locked into a contract, policy is generally that you must pay up the rest of your remaining months in one lump sum if you wish to cancel early, or carry on with your rubbish contract.

The Panel is also looking to provide consistent cancellation policies within individual operators and retailers and staff training to explain company policies correctly. Accurate in-store info will be tough to regulate, too – while a manager may be more stringent as they do not want to lose their job, we don’t imagine some summer placements will be too fussed over unscrupulously making a couple of extra sales.

For now, Panel Chair Anna Bradley reckons everyone should check operator coverage all the way through and have a gander at cancellation policies before they hand over the cash.