Are you on a fixed mobile contract? Did you know that chances are your network can quite legally up your monthly payment mid-contract – and in fact, that four of the five networks have done just that in the past year?
If not, rest assured – you're not alone. According to an undercover Which? investigation, 92% of shop assistants in typical high street mobile phone shops don't know either, or don't seem willing to tell prospective customers at any rate – even when asked about it directly.
As part of its Fixed Means Fixed campaign, Which? sent a team of fake shoppers armed with hidden cameras to 39 phone shops around the UK, including branches of all five major networks as well as leading independent retailers Carphone Warehouse and Phones4U.
The aim was to see whether mobile subscribers were being made aware that networks' definition of the term “fixed” related to the contract length, not the monthly cost, and that in fact all the major players apart from O2 had increased their rates mid-contract over the past 12 months.
The results don't paint a pretty picture for the leading providers – or at least the level of training that they give their staff. More than nine out of 10 assistants failed to inform Which's researchers of the fact, and 82% actively promised the monthly rate wouldn't change over the contract period when asked directly.
Even when informed of the recent mid-contract tariff increases by Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile and Three, 28% continued to insist that the price was fixed and there was no chance it could increase.
We all joke about the dismal average level of knowledge most phone shop sales staff seem to possess, but when that ignorance (or feigned ignorance) is helping to cover up an issue that costs UK mobile subscribers around £90m a year as Which? suggests, it's no laughing matter.
Ultimately these people are the main, and in many cases only, direct point of contact consumers have with the networks in considering a new contract. Considering the amount of money they stand to make out of the deal, the least providers can do is make sure their staff know what they're talking about.
Have you been told one thing when shopping for a contract only to find the truth is very different once you checked out the small print? Or maybe you've worked in a mobile phone shop and can offer a perspective on this issue from the other side? If so, give us your thoughts in the comments below.