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Telecoms price rises – what are your rights?

Published: 20 January 2023
Last updated: 5 March 2024

Many telecoms customers face rising costs for their home phone, mobile and broadband services in the next few months, as some providers increase their prices.

Some telecoms firms have price rises written into customers’ contracts. This means that in March / April, as we move from one financial year into the next, they may increase prices in line with the terms of their contract.

These types of price rises are usually linked to inflation – and current high inflation is the main reason for customers facing potential significant increases in the prices they pay for their telecoms services.

Other providers say prices may go up during the contract, but don’t specify in advance what they will be.

What providers must do

If your provider doesn’t specify a price rise in your contract (either a set amount or one linked to inflation) – then raises their price – you are free to exit that contract and move to another provider without penalty. They should tell you about a price increase, or any other change, 30 days before it happens.

Providers who include prices rises in customer contracts must make this clear before you sign up.

We’re currently investigating whether providers have been setting out these price rises clearly enough before customers signed up.

If you don’t think your provider did this, you should complain to them. If you’re not happy with how they deal with your complaint, you can take it to the ombudsman who will make an independent ruling on your case.

We’re also concerned about the transparency of inflation-linked price rises in contracts, and how well they’re understood. We’re examining this issue to ensure customers’ interests are protected.

Why are these price rises happening?

Ofcom does not set retail telecoms prices. We support competition in the telecoms sector, as this provides choice for customers with a range of providers, services and packages on offer. This competition leads to providers offering discounts to attract new customers.

It’s also important to remember that while average household spend on telecoms services has been broadly flat in real terms in recent years, at the same time customers have benefited from better, faster services and are using more data than ever before.

And as demand for data continues to accelerate, the UK’s broadband and mobile infrastructure is getting a much-needed upgrade.  This requires significant investment from telecoms companies, who are also increasing the capacity of their networks to accommodate increasing data use.

We regulate wholesale telecoms prices in a way that sets the right conditions for companies to build these faster, more reliable networks. In total, next-generation ‘gigabit-capable’ broadband is now available to 70% of the UK – nearly 21 million homes – and around seven in ten UK properties are in areas where 5G is available from at least one mobile network operator.

What else can you do?

If you’re out of contract you have the freedom to switch provider, giving you the opportunity to get a better deal elsewhere.

If you’re receiving certain benefits, you could be eligible for a social tariff – these are lower-cost packages for customers who might be struggling to afford their broadband or phone services.

We’ve also put together some tips for cutting your phone, broadband and pay-TV costs. See if they could help you.

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