Is my phone company treating me unfairly?
Every week we will break down, debunk and demystify your rights as a shopper in Australia. This week we are looking at mobile phone contracts, and what telecommunications companies can and can't do with their prices.
We all know life is getting more expensive than ever before. It is more important than ever to stretch every dollar you make.
That's why each week we'll answer a question surrounding what shoppers are – and aren't – entitled to when dealing with retailers and manufacturers.
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Can they do this?
I recently received an email from my phone provider Vodafone that informed me the price of my plan was going up by $5.
I thought I signed a contract on this?
Surely they can't increase the price without making me sign a new contract, can they?
Hi there – I'm afraid it very much depends on your contract.
There may be a clause there that says prices may change if customers are given due notice, hence the email.
Fundamentally customers must abide by the contracts they sign with major companies, although that doesn't mean companies can offer contracts with unfair terms.
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There are some rules in place.
According to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), a telco must tell you before they make any changes to the contract, and the changes must not have a negative effect on you.
These changes may relate to ending a contract early or paying a minimum amount.
If you want to end your contract early, you have to be careful as there may be a fixed fee for you to pay – this is also legal, and will depend on the terms of your contract.
MONEY MATTERS: Is the customer always right in Australia?
Of course, there are limits to what is considered "fair" and "unfair".
If you think the contract you're on is fundamentally unfair, you can complain directly to your provider.
If that doesn't resolve things, you can also complain direct to the telecommunications ombudsman as a last resort.
Contracts in Australia can't be fundamentally unfair. But like all things, caveat emptor exists – buyer beware.
Do you have a Money Matters question that you would like Stu to answer? You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The information provided on this website is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice. The information has been prepared without taking into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on any information on this website you should consider the appropriateness of the information having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs.