Orange UK customers have been shocked to receive a text message informing them that their monthly contract prices would be going up by over 4 per cent from January.
The text reads:
"Hi from Orange. We're increasing the price of your monthly plan by 4.34% from 8 January 2012. For more information please visit orangeworld.co.uk/r/planupdate"
Speaking on BBC Radio 5Live this Thursday lunchtime, Martin Lewis, consumer guru and founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, suggested that although the rise was in line with Orange's terms and conditions, this did not necessarily mean it would be 'deemed to be fair', and customers may be able to take action.
He referred to a previous case regarding bank charges in the UK which, despite being within the banks' terms and conditions, were ruled to be unfair, and consequently the banks were forced to pay out large sums to customers.
The celebrity financial adviser urged those unhappy with the rise to 'make a fuss' and 'complain to Orange'; adding that there was an outside chance they might agree to cancel your contract.
"This isn't a clear-cut case – so predicting the outcome of any complaint is tough," Lewis said, "however, for those who want to escape their contract, it is worth formally contacting Orange and telling it you believe the price hike is of 'material detriment' and you want to leave," he added.
Should that avenue fail, he proposed going further: "take your complaint to ofcom, if enough people complain" the regulator might act on it.
There was a surreal and ironic moment on the radio show, when the presenter herself, Shelagh Fogarty, received a text message from Orange about the imminent price hike.
The network provider gave the following explanation for increasing its prices:
As you probably know, inflation is at a 20 year high, which is having a significant impact on businesses and households alike. Unfortunately, we've had to re-evaluate our prices for the first time and are sorry to say that there will be a 4.34% increase in our monthly plan prices from 8 January 2012. This is lower than the Retail Price Index measure of inflation, which currently stands at 5.4%.