With phone and internet providers having complicated charging structures, it can sometimes be difficult to be sure you are being charged the correct amount.

If you have a problem with a phone or internet provider the first step is to contact their customer services helpline. Often this will lead to your problem being sorted out or you being offered a discount that you are happy with.

Where you are still unhappy, you should put your complaint in writing. A sample letter is provided below for you to adapt to your circumstances. If that doesn’t do the trick you will need to consider taking matters further. Many companies will offer mediation or what is known as alternative dispute resolution. Finally for disputes over charges under £10,000 you can let a judge decide what is reasonable by using the small claims court.

 

Summary of the law -  Telephone or internet supplier disputes

Your rights

 
You will have an agreement or contract with your phone or internet provider:

  • You agree to their charges and pay them in accordance with the contract.
  • In exchange you have the right to receive the telephone or internet service set out in your contract with them.

If they charge you more than agreed or fail to provide you with the service then you may have a claim for their “breach of contract” and you may be entitled to compensation.

Some problems with the service will be beyond their control and may not give you a right to compensation. Also some problems may be caused by your equipment and not be their fault.

Some contracts will try to limit your rights, for example limiting your right to compensation resulting from the supplier providing a good connection. The court may then have to decide if this ‘get out’ clause is reasonable.

Mid-contract price rises: Many contracts include a clause to say that the monthly price can be increased to cover inflation. These clauses used to be hidden in the long contract terms.  From 2014 these clauses need to be clearer in new contracts. But prices can still rise.

Cancelling a contract: If you take out a contract (such as one for 18 months)but want to end it early, you will usually still have to pay the remaining payments. Some operators may let you switch to another contract with them. If you bought online you also have a 7 day cooling off period from receiving the handset. But otherwise you will have to pay for the full length of the contract.

The area of law is known as “breach of contract”. Customers are also given extra rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015

Extra rights – under EU law for using a mobile phone in Europe:
Whatever your contract says, if you have not taken a specific package for use in Europe, the phone company cannot charge you more than the following charges if you use your phone in Eurpoe:

  • Calls made:  €0.24 (around 20p) per minute (plus VAT)
  • Calls received: €0.07 (around 6p) per minute (plus VAT). 
  • Sending a text: €0.08 (around 7p) per text (plus VAT). 
  • Receiving texts or voicemail: €0.00 (but calls made to listen to messages would be charged).
  • Data roaming charges/internet access: €0.45 (around 38p) per MB of data, (plus VAT). This will then fall to €0.20 in July 2014 (plus VAT). 

These do not apply in Switzerland or Turkey and rates may vary in Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
     

What do you have to prove to bring a claim?

 

You can claim for their breaches such as over-charging or failure to provide a promised service:

1: That there is a valid contract between you and the service provider. 

2: Details of what you have been charged

3: Details of any other agreement or additional package you have taken out

4: Details of any thing relevant you have been told when you rang their customer services team.

Usually they will be able to access copies of contracts, records of payments and recordings of telephone calls. Therefore you will not need to send them copies.

 

What can you claim?

 

1: Charges you think they should not have made.

2: Charges you should not have to pay because they did not provide the service promised in the contract.

3: You can also claim back your additional losses and expenses. Usually this will only be payable in extreme cases:

Even in extreme cases this is usually limited to a small sum to compensate you for your distress and inconvenience.

Refund of extra losses and expenses suffered as a direct result of their breach of the contract. Indirect losses such as lost business will be harder to establish. The amount you can claim must be reasonable and will usually need to be supported by receipts or other evidence.

 

What is the deadline for starting a claim at court?

 

The court’s legal deadline is usually 6 years.
However phone companies must also offer an Alternative Dispute Resolution process – either after they have reached a deadlock with you (they refuse to settle your dispute in a way you consider to be fair and reasonable) or if you do not hear back at all within 8 weeks of sending them your complaint letter.

 

Example claims

 

Exceeded “fair usage” policy on an unlimited plan that you weren’t aware of.

Charged for using your phone when you didn’t. 

Charges on your monthly bill which you weren’t advised of. 

 

 

Disclaimer reminder

 

Please note: To give you general information about your dispute, the information given here is a simplification of a complex area of law and cannot be relied upon. Before taking action please use our Small Claims service to get specialist legal advice on your specific circumstances. See the full terms and conditions of this website

 

Format - complaint letter

 

 

Information to include

Sample letter – Telephone or internet supplier dispute

1

Start of official letter to the telephone or internet supplier.

 

[If you have been given the person’s name to contact]: Dear Mr Smith, 

[If you do not know their name]: Dear Sirs,

 

2

Background

Any relevant background information:

What was agreed between you?

What happened (in date order)? 

Be specific and refer to any written or verbal agreements.  

Background

I took out a telephone contract with you on 1 April 2013. 

Your reference: DE/3345

My contract phone number: 07934 548 341

Package details: It was the “demand extra” package providing unlimited texts, 300 free minutes and unlimited data usage for £30 per month. 

In September 2013 I was going to Spain for 5 days. Before I left I looked at international roaming charges

Further package: “Europe C” - the cost was £4 a day. This included 100GB roaming each day. As I only needed the internet for minor usage, I picked this plan. 

On 5 September 2013 I called your customer services team to arrange this further package. I confirmed the dates I would be in Spain and that I wanted the “Europe C” £4 a day international roaming bundle. 

I was advised that this was all fine and the services had been added to my account. 

3

Payments

Details of any payments requested and any payments made

 

Payments

My usual monthly bill is for between £30 and £50 depending on my additional usage. 

I worked out that £4 a day on a 5 day trip would cost me £20 and this expected this to be charged to me in my next monthly bill (October 2013)

However, I received my October 2013 bill it was for £350 and having looked at it in further detail, approximately £300 charges relate to my data roaming charges in Spain. 

Due to the direct debit set up, this payment was taken by you on 20 October 2013.

4

Complaint

Identify clearly why you are unhappy.

Give any relevant dates

Be clear about why you think the other person is responsible.

Complaint

I am unhappy to receive such a high bill especially when this is not my fault. I made sure to add the international roaming bundle before travelling and used the service on this basis. 

I believe that you should have only charged me an additional £20 for the bundle that I took out before I left.

On 12 November 2013 - after making a few calls and spending quite a long time with one of your customer service advisors, I was told that as a gesture of goodwill you would halve this additional element of the bill and I would only need to pay £150. 

5

Problems caused

Give details of any problems you have suffered as a result.

If relevant refer to photos.

Problems caused

This has caused me significant distress, not to mention I am now seriously out of pocket. 

I have had to spend considerable time on the phone with your customer service team, going through the bill to see where the charges have come from, only to establish the £300 is due to the data roaming charges you have made for my time in Spain. 

6

Losses and expenses 

If the problems have caused you losses or expenses - give details.

Also provide proof of the damage and cost of repairs or replacement wherever possible.

Losses and expenses

My monthly bill for October should have been £30 (usual Demand More package) plus £20 for 5 days of the £4 ‘Europe C’ package. A total of £50.

You charged me £350.

I therefore consider that you have overcharged me by £300.

 

7

Remedy

Be as clear as possible about the remedy you would like. 

  • Say what action you would like them to take (or stop). 
  • Where you are asking for a payment - put a price on the you seek.

Remedy

Please refund the £300 overcharged to my usual bank account within the next 14 days.

I would also like to be provided with compensation for the distress this situation has caused me and for the time I have had to spend resolving this matter and suggest a £30 payment (equivalent to one month’s charges). 

8

Reply

Give your opponent 14 days to reply to the letter – to  either:

  • agree with your complaint and give you the remedy that you seek 

OR 

  • arrange to inspect the problem

OR

  • set out their detailed response.

Reply

Please do not ignore this letter. I would like us to try to resolve our dispute without court proceedings and legal costs.

Please reply in the next 14 days, so that this dispute can be resolved as set out in this letter. 

If you do not agree that you are liable and/or do not agree with the remedy sought, then please reply within 14 days with a detailed explanation of why not.

9

Consequences

Point out that ignoring your letter will mean you may start legal proceedings for the court to deal with the dispute and that you may refer the judge to your letter.

Consequences

I am sure it will not prove necessary but if I do not hear from you within 14 days then I reserve the right to start court proceedings without further reference to you. I will ask the court for an order that you pay me £330.00. 


If I do have to issue court proceedings, I will refer the court to this letter and I will also ask the court to order you to pay me interest, court fees and legal costs.

I look forward to hearing from you within the next 14 days.

9

Ending

[If you started with their name]:
Yours sincerely, 
Ian Rate

[If you started using Dear Sirs]:
Yours faithfully, 
Ian Rate