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Case studies - Nasty shock on mobile contract

A Which? member who thought she’d found a cheap mobile phone contract for her daughter had a nasty surprise when the first bill arrived for more than twice what she was expecting. In response, Sylvia Kovacsits called T-Mobile to cancel the contract.

T-Mobile offered her a new contract that was £5 a month cheaper than her current contract. It came with a new smartphone, 100 minutes talk time and unlimited texts. However, when the first monthly bill arrived, it was for £18 instead of the £10.50 she was expecting.

Sylvia called T-Mobile and was told the extra charge was because the smartphone had converted text messages of more than 320 characters into picture messaging.

Which? Legal advice

Unhappy with the contract, Sylvia contacted Which? Legal.

We advised her to write to T-Mobile pointing out that she couldn’t be bound by the terms of a contract that were not brought to her attention at the time the contract was agreed.

T-Mobile replied offering a refund of the first month’s charges as a goodwill gesture, but wouldn’t offer a further refund. Following further advice from Which? Legal, Sylvia wrote again stating that, as T-Mobile had misrepresented the contract, she wanted to cancel the contract under the Misrepresentation Act 1967.

Outcome

T-Mobile agreed to release her from the contract if she returned the phone.

Legal points

When you enter into a contract, only terms brought to your attention when the contract was made, can be binding. If you enter into contracts based on information you were given which turns out not to be true, you may be able to cancel the contract on the basis of misrepresentation under the Misrepresentation Act 1967 in England and Wales, and under common law in Scotland.

If you enter into phone contract by telephone, the provider must comply with the Distance Selling Regulations by providing you with certain information, specifically the right to cancel the contract within seven days. However, if you don’t receive notice of your cancellation rights, that right is extended to three months and seven days beginning the day after you received the phone.