50% of European telecommunication websites are advertising free or discounted services which are not in fact cheaper, as they are sold as part of a bundle package.
“The online telecommunications industry is the latest sector to come under the EU spotlight and the results of this EU-wide screening should be of interest to consumers who are currently shopping for a new landline, mobile or broadband service provider,” said Brian Hayes MEP.
Consumer Protection Agencies in all EU member states conducted a series of checks on 207 websites offering fixed/mobile phone, internet, audio and video streaming services.
The screening reveals that 163 of these websites could be infringing EU consumer law. Some of the most common issues identified are the advertisement of allegedly free or discounted packages that are in fact a bundled offer, the lack of a dispute resolution system, or the fact that these websites can unilaterally change the terms of the contract without information or justification to the consumer.
- In 50% of cases, the website advertises a package of services for free or on discount, when they are only a service offered in a bundled package;
- In 79 % of cases, the website did not provide a link to the Online Dispute Resolution Platform
- In 41% of the websites, there was no description of a dispute resolution system;
- 32% of the websites can unilaterally changing the terms of the contract or the service characteristics without informing the consumer and without allowing the consumer to cancel the contract;
- 25% of the websites did not provide clear or truthful information about compensation and refund arrangements when the offered service is not what the client had paid for;
- 22% did not provide clear and comprehensive information on the automatic contract renewal
“Most of us use our mobile phone or internet subscriptions every day and should be able to trust these services. This screening confirms, however, that a number of websites selling such services are misleading consumers by advertising fake discounts or not providing the full information necessary to make an informed choice.
“The national authorities are to further investigate the offending websites and their irregularities. If these are confirmed, the companies will be obliged to address these issues via national enforcement procedures. While these breaches are disappointing, this is another example of the benefit of having an EU watchdog charged with ensuring standards are maintained.”