New rules being considered by media and telecoms regulator Ofcom could force customers who buy bundles of pay-TV, broadband and mobile phones to renew all of their services at the same time.
The regulator has published a range of draft proposals it says could boost competition by making it easier for customers to shop around, and has identified differing end dates for services as a key barrier to customers switching.
It says “when people take more than one service from their provider, companies may impose different contract end-dates for each one. This could mean consumers need to pay a charge to exit one of their services early, or delay switching until the later contract ends.”
To address this, Ofcom’s proposed that “all elements of a bundle have the same contract end-date,” but, while this is aimed at helping customers, it could risk backfiring by forcing them to renew all their services at once rather than waiting for money saving deals to be offered by their current or new provider.
Other suggestions put forward by the regulator include ensuring information about contract lengths is sufficiently clear and “assessing whether handset locking practices dissuade or delay people from changing mobile provider.”
Ofcom could also require service providers to tell customers when their minimum terms are due to expire, a move which could save many households money by prompting them to negotiate a discount or renewal deal.
Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director said: “We want to help telecoms and TV customers take full advantage of the products and deals out there.
“Too many people are deterred from shopping around, often staying on contracts that don’t suit their needs.
“So we plan to make things easier, by breaking down the barriers that prevent customers from engaging in the communications market.”
Ofcom is inviting views from the public, consumer groups and companies on its proposals.