Editor’s blog: Virgin Media’s mobile price increases and you

Virgin Mobile has written to customers outlining a bill increase next month Phil Creighton (digitally manipulated)

Virgin Media’s mobile phone tariffs are rising by 2.5% next month – months after Ofcom ruling against fixed term contract prices rises.

Virgin Media’s mobile arm has announced the price rises for its customers from July 22, 2014.

It means that if a monthly line rental is £20 a month, prices will rise by 50p.

The price increases come 12 months after a 2.9% price rise, which came in effect last year. Other mobile phone operators have introduced similar prices rises, in line with inflation, over recent months.

A letter sent to customers from Virgin Media says: “The 2.5% increase in in line with Retail Price Index (RPI) inflation, published 20th May 2014.

“The increase is calculated on the price of your monthly tariff. This will not affect the price of the calls, texts and data outside of your monthly tariff allowance.”

It also states that “You can cancel your contract early. You will need to pay any cancellation charges that may apply.”

The rises differ from advice published by Ofcom which came into effect in January, aimed at stopping price rises during a fixed term contract, but Virgin Media says that it is entitled to do so – and if you want to leave early, you will need to pay the remainder of your contract.

According to Ofcom, “Ofcom’s new guidance states that if a provider wants to up the prices agreed by you at the point of sale, you should be given at least one month’s notice and be allowed to exit without penalty.”

In advice published last year, consumer group Which? said: “These exit fees are usually the remaining charges on your contract term, which doesn’t exactly give you the freedom to leave.”

The group is running a Fixed Means Fixed campaign on mobile phone contracts: it says that if you sign up to a fixed term contract it should stay at the same amount for the duration. More than 60,000 people have signed a petition to ensure contract prices remain the same throughout their duration.

Vodafone, Three, Tesco Mobile and Utility Warehouse have all promised to offered fixed contracts at a fixed price.

Virgin Media says that the Ofcom ruling only applies for customers entering into new or upgraded contracts on or after January 23, 2014 and as such, it is entitled to increase tariffs by the rate of inflation.

A spokesperson for the company said: “Any Virgin Media mobile customer who signed a new contract or upgraded with us after this date is not affected by this change.

“The RPI price change for pay monthly customers is in line with the May RPI at 2.5%. Customers can exit their contract but early disconnection fees may apply depending on the remainder of their contract term with us.

“We’re notifying all affected customers within 30 days of the price change.”

To help customers, the company has created a webpage where they can calculate what their new tarriff will be from July 2014.

Virgin Media’s Changes webpage says that it can raise prices, pointing to item 5.2 in its terms and conditions.

Jamie Heywood, director of mobile at Virgin Media, said: “Virgin Media customers enjoy some of the best value mobile tariffs around.

“To help us continue to invest in the best mobile service and exclusive benefits such as inclusive insurance and free calls, we’re making a small increase to our pricing in line with RPI for existing Pay Monthly contract customers who joined or upgraded before 23rd January 2014.”

Updated Friday, June 20: The Terms and Conditions on Virgin Media’s website have now been updated.

The below text has been removed from the main article but left here for posterity:

However, item 5.2 linked to in the article makes no reference to pricing (see screenshots below). Instead, it says:

“If the Device you purchased was ‘as new’ the warranty is 6 months for iPhones and 12 months for all other device manufacturers. You must provide reasonable assistance and information to us, including returning your original Device in its original packaging, if requested.”