According to the Channel Islands competition watchdog, the monthly charge on some customers’ contracts should have been reduced once the cost of a new phone handset had been repaid.
But an investigation by the Channel Islands Competition Regulatory Authorities has revealed that Sure Telecom may have allowed its customers to remain on the higher contracts despite the phones being paid for.
Until recently, consumers would often pay one monthly fee for a fixed-term contract of either 12 or 24 months, which would cover the cost of a new handset and a bundle of texts, call minutes and data. A recent investigation in the UK found that although the handsets had been paid for by the end of the fixed-term contract, some mobile operators were allowing their customers to continue paying the initial monthly fee, rather than reduce it.
Following the revelation in the UK, CICRA decided to investigate in the Channel Islands and discovered that while Airtel and JT stopped this practice around five years ago, Sure stopped last year.
In its findings, CICRA said: ‘While these contracts are no longer available to new customers, a significant number of Sure’s pay-monthly customers remained on “handset inclusive” contracts beyond their minimum term and this may not be in their best interests.
‘A further group of Sure customers are within their minimum term and unless they move to a ‘Sim-only’ plan at the end of that period, may also find themselves paying more than if they were on an equivalent “SIM only” tariff.
Louise Read, director of CICRA, added: ‘We raised this issue with the operators because it is our responsibility to inform and protect local consumers and ensure that they are getting the best deal and not paying more than they need to.
‘Having identified the impact on some Sure customers we welcome the steps it is taking to address the issue.
‘So our message to all mobile phone users is to check your contract and make sure you are not paying more than you need to.’
In a statement, Sure, who claimed the matter now only affects around 2 per cent of its customers, said: ‘We have worked with CICRA to decide upon the best route forward for this small number of customers and agree that the time has come to automatically move them onto one of our new SIM-only plans.
‘We will write to all affected customers to ensure they are aware of the move and invite them to speak with us if they would like further explanation or to ensure they’re on the best tariff for their needs’
Any customers worried that they may be affected have been encouraged by CICRA to contact Sure for more information. If not satisfied with the response, consumers can then contact CICRA for more advice.
The JEP was unable to ascertain from Sure whether or not it intended refunding those customers affected.