Ofcom to investigate operators who stop customers from ending contracts

Communications industry watchdog Ofcom has said it will launch new investigations into whether operators of mobile, broadband and TV services have violated fair trading laws by making it increasingly difficult and frustrating for users to cancel their contracts.

Major operators like EE, Virgin, TalkTalk, Sky and BT will probably bear the brunt of the investigations, given that consumer complaints against these firms have been the most frequent.

Ofcom added that investigations will centre on long waiting times for customers in call centres, difficulties in getting porting authorization codes that are required for switching between networks as well as billing issues even after contracts are over.

A statement from Ofcom said, ‘Ofcom receives a large number of complaints about the difficulties experienced by consumers trying to exit their communications service contract. These suggest that communications providers are systematically making it difficult for customers to exit their contract. We consider this allegation extremely serious, and, if sustained, may result in significant consumer harm.’

Ofcom even went ahead with teaching network operators on how to behave with customers who seek cancellation or non-renewal of their contracts.

'It is vital that consumers are not let down by poor customer service and difficult procedures, or even deliberate obstruction, when they try to cancel their communications service. Exiting a contract should be swift, easy and transparent, to allow consumers to exercise their choice and switch to another provider without undue hassle if they wish,’ it said.

As most consumers are well aware of and even have first-hand experiences of how unhelpful and irritating some network operators can be in certain situations, Ofcom's quick interventions to impose compliance can go a long way in ensuring operators will no longer be able to resort to certain tactics to force customers to walk their line.

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