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Office of Competition and Consumer Protection

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Price hikes in telecoms? Inflation adjustment clauses under UOKiK's scrutiny

< previous | next > 29.11.2022

Price hikes in telecoms? Inflation adjustment clauses under UOKiK's scrutiny
  • Are mobile operators allowed to pass on inflation costs to consumers?
  • The President of UOKiK investigates provisions that validate changes to telecommunications service fees in fixed-term contracts.
  • Preliminary investigations are pending that involve Orange Polska, P4 and T- Mobile Polska.

Most recently, Orange Polska, P4 (Play network) and T-Mobile operators have decided to introduce provisions in fixed-term contracts that are of concern to the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection. These include inflation adjustment clauses that would validate modification of the terms and conditions of the commitments signed by consumers during their term. Changes in the prices of the services provided could take place as early as next year. Price hikes depended on the annual average consumer price and service index announced by Statistics Poland.

- The economic environment in which we have been operating for the past several months has prompted traders to take actions that may have a negative financial impact on consumers. Changes to material elements of an ongoing commitment are not always permissible, which is why I have instituted investigations into inflation adjustment clauses introduced by mobile operators. We do suspect that they may constitute abusive clauses, i.e. legally unauthorised provisions that grossly infringe the interests of consumers. Service price is the element that needs to be clearly and comprehensibly communicated to the consumer at the time of signing the contract and the consequences of the commitment should under all circumstances be foreseeable for the consumer, as it is one of the basic criteria for the decision to conclude a contract with an operator - Tomasz Chróstny, the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection, stresses.

Inflation adjustment clauses, if they are to be introduced into the contracts, should safeguard both parties and must not be used only for the benefit of entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, the presumed changes to fixed-term commitments may result in the consequences of the changing economic situation being transferred to mobile network users.

According to the Office's findings, Orange Polska anticipates possible service price hikes when there is a price increase of at least 3.5 per cent compared to the previous year. Similarly, lower inflation could result in a reduction in fees due, however, as indicated in the model contracts and rules and regulations, this would only be the case if operators had previously raised prices. Otherwise, even if the inflation rate would justify reducing prices, the company reserves the option to leave them unchanged.

Similar provisions have been introduced by T-Mobile Polska, which provides for the possibility of amending the terms of the contract when the average annual price index shows an increase of 3 per cent. Also in the case of this operator, the circumstances under which fees must be reduced by the company remain unclear - they were made conditional on a previous hike. The clauses in question may be incomprehensible to consumers and result in uncertainty about the contract concluded.

As regards the P4 operator, the templates provide for several variants authorising changes in the prices of the services provided. These include, inter alia, the previously mentioned inflation rate (a difference of 3 per cent) and also, for example, the change in the EURO exchange rate. The President of the Office raises doubts as to how the provisions in question have been formulated.

- The provisions used in the contracts must be clear, precise and understandable to the average consumer. It is important that consumers know the terms and conditions under which services are to be provided under a fixed-term contract and they should be aware of the price they will pay for telecommunications services. Clauses in contracts introduced by mobile operators that enable them to increase prices by the level of inflation are to be scrutinised by us for abusiveness and violation of the collective interests of consumers – Tomasz Chróstny, the President of UOKiK, says.

The preliminary investigations as regards the mobile operators may result in charges being pressed and penalties of up to 10% of their turnover. The President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection is also on the look-out for the introduction of inflation adjustment clauses in other sectors of the economy.

Consumer Support:

Phone: 801 440 220 or 222 66 76 76 – consumer helpline
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Additional information for the media:

UOKiK Press Office
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Phone: 22 55 60 246
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Twitter: @UOKiKgovPL
You can also follow us on Instagram: @uokikgovpl

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