The government will crack down on excessive roaming charges and hidden price increases in renewal notices, and help consumers split the majority of costly annual bills into manageable monthly payments.
Consumer Minister Jo Swinson announced two reviews aimed at helping people with rising costs of living.
An intergovernmental review will focus on how to improve the transparency and content of the information presented to consumers about their bills.
The other review will focus on how to make installment payments more widely available to keep people from having no choice but to pay high upfront bills for essential services. The government has given homeowners new rights to pay their council tax bills over a 12-month period if they so choose. The government is keen to work with the councils to ensure that other forms of payment such as parking permits have similar flexibility.
Household budgets will also benefit from a telecommunications consumer action plan, which ensures consumers have the right information and advice on hand to get the best deals on phones, internet, and other telecommunications products.
Consumer Secretary Jo Swinson and Communications Secretary Ed Vaizey will be working with Industry and Telecom regulator Ofcom over the next 9 months to develop the action plan.
Consumer Minister Jo Swinson said:
People are understandably concerned about the rising cost of living. The coalition government is already helping by lowering taxes for low and middle income workers. I want us to do more to take the pressure off household budgets.
Many households spend more on insurance than on municipal taxes, but many consumers pay above average. Easier comparison of the renewal price with last year’s offer would encourage more people to look around – and encourage insurers to make more competitive renewal offers in the first place.
And many have had a nasty surprise when unexpected roaming charges or data costs suddenly resulted in a huge cell phone bill out of the blue.
Therefore, Ill will be working with the industry to examine how we can help consumers get the best deal on a range of inevitable, everyday expenses that have previously been bloated at hidden or unnecessary costs.
I sincerely hope that companies make sense and willingly change unfair practices. When it doesn’t, I stand up for regulation to ensure consumers get the deals they deserve.
Notes to the editors:
1. The Telecom Consumer Action Plan will address the following issues:
- makes it easier to change telecom and broadband providers
- Increasing the transparency of contracts
- End of the bill shock unexpectedly high cell phone bills
- Worked to end roaming charges when using mobile phones abroad
- How can we ensure that the poorest in society get the best deal so that they can access essential communication services?
- Improving customer service to minimize consumer frustration when things go wrong
The government will work with industry and Ofcom to develop self-regulatory solutions to these problems. We will also work with the EU to end roaming charges.
2. The government will initiate a review to expand the use of installment payments in household transactions with the public and private sectors. Installment payments can spread the cost of bills over months, offset the budgetary impact of large purchases, and help households manage their expenses over time. This review will be reported to the ministers in the spring.
3. Jo Swinson urges companies to introduce more price transparency into their communication with customers at the time of the renewal. Consumers should be able to see how much they paid in the past year in their renewal notices. This will help increase transparency for consumers so that they are better informed. This review will be reported to the ministers in the spring.
4. The government’s economic policy objective is to achieve strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly distributed across the country and across industries. The plan for growth, published in the 2011 budget, set four ambitions:
- create the most competitive tax system in the G20
- Making the UK the best place in Europe to start, fund and grow a business
- Encouraging investment and exports as a path to a more balanced economy
- to create a better trained workforce that is the most flexible in Europe
All governments are working to meet these ambitions, including progress on more than 250 growth review measures. The development of an industrial strategy gives this work new impetus by giving companies, investors and the public more clarity about the long-term