Ofcom to judge fairness of Vodafone deals

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The Independent Online

Ofcom has launched an investigation into the contracts signed by customers of Vodafone after a complaint from trading standards officers.

Ofcom has launched an investigation into the contracts signed by customers of Vodafone after a complaint from trading standards officers.

Leicestershire County Council believes the notoriously long and complex contracts could breach regulations under the Enterprise Act which are designed to ensure that consumer contracts are fair.

Its complaint also includes the terms of Vodafone's promotional literature for the insurance cover it sells with its phones.

Gary Connors, of Leicestershire County Council trading standards services, said: "We found that a lot of contracts are extremely difficult to get your head round, primarily because of their complexity.

"We are not happy with some terms and conditions that we believe could breach the regulations. We have received complaints about mobile phone contracts not being clear enough and we will be very interested to see what the response is from Ofcom as the industry regulator. What we are talking about is the fairness and the ways that these contracts are constructed."

Mr Connors said consumers were often faced with contracts that ran to "reams and reams" of paper and that it had decided to look at mobile phone providers in general but that it had started with the biggest, Vodafone.

He said Leicestershire planned to extend its own investigations into the sales of ringtones to children and pre-pay mobile phone deals supplied by the telcoms industry.

However, the complaint that Ofcom is now investigating relates specifically to Vodafone's advertising literature for its insurance cover and the terms and conditions for various Vodafone products and services. These include its Airtime, Paymonthly and Pay as You Talk services. The complaint was lodged with Ofcom a month ago and an official investigation was opened last week.

A spokeswoman for Vodafone said: "Ofcom has made us aware of it. It is a lengthy complaint. It talks about a number of terms and conditions."

Ofcom has powers to fine companies it finds in breach of the Enterprise Act and can also force them to change aspects of their business to stop breaches occurring in the future. Ofcom said: "Leicestershire County Council's complaint raises concerns relating to the Control of Misleading Advertisements Regulations 1988, the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 and the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000. Ofcom is investigating the complaint pursuant to its powers under Part 8 of the Enterprise Act."

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