Millions of Three mobile customers are to see the price of their monthly mobile contracts rise this year, MoneySavingExpert can reveal – making it the second major network to announce mid-contract price increases this week.
Three told us it intends to increase prices in line with the Retail Price Index (RPI) measure of inflation, but is yet to confirm when or which month’s RPI figure the rise will be based on. The most recent RPI figure released this month, covering January, was 4%.
Last year Three announced in April that prices would go up in May – but it’s not clear if it will follow the same pattern this year.
The news from Three comes after EE confirmed it will increase monthly mobile contracts by 4.1% in March.
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I’m mid-contract – will I be able to leave penalty-free?
Unfortunately you won’t be able to. Mobile firms CAN increase prices mid-contract in line with inflation without you being able to leave penalty-free, so long as they include a warning about this in their terms and conditions – and Three does. So you can’t just up and leave.
There is a rule set by the telecoms regulator Ofcom that means you can escape your contract penalty-free if you can successfully prove you’ve suffered “material detriment” as a result of a price increase – but it would be very hard to prove an RPI increase has caused this.
Make sure you note down when your contract is due to end, and start looking for new deals about a month before.
What if I’m out of contract?
Regardless of price increases, if you’re out of your minimum contract term then you can leave without paying any penalty, and there’s a good chance you can save by switching to a better deal – especially if your original contract deal involved paying for a handset.
Most should NEVER pay over £10/mth for mobile use, given two thirds of mobile users consume less than 3GB/mth – see our Cheap Mobiles and Cheap Sim-only Deals guides for full help on finding a cheaper deal elsewhere.
Alternatively, if you’re willing to stick with Three, this is a major chance to haggle a much better deal especially as you have the right to leave penalty-free (again you don’t need to wait for the price rise).
See our Mobile Haggling guide for detailed tips, but here are a few to get you started…
- Benchmark the best deal elsewhere so you ask for a realistic discount.
- Get through to the retentions (sometimes called disconnections) department. They have the most power to slash costs, as their job is to keep you.
- Use charm and be friendly. Aggression or anger will just put their back up.
- Don’t panic if they call your bluff and say they’ll disconnect you.
Mid-contract price rises ‘an occupational hazard’
Guy Anker, managing editor of MoneySavingExpert, said: “Price rises such as those from Three and EE announced this week are an occupational hazard for most mobile users as they happen every year.
“While customers in contract are normally still tied in after a hike, any rise should act as a timely trigger for anyone free to move to save £100s by finding a better deal, given Sim prices have dived over recent years. Those on legacy tariffs are likely paying lots more than the best deals.”
Other firms increase prices mid-contract too
EE confirmed just yesterday that it’s raising prices this year, and last year most Vodafone and O2 pay-monthly customers saw a 2.5%-3.2% increase in their bills. We’ll keep our eyes peeled for rises from any of the other firms and will cover them as soon as they’re announced.
What does Three say?
A Three spokesperson confirmed that the firm does intend to apply an increase equivalent to RPI this year.
She said: “Like many other mobile operators, our pay-monthly plans are subject to an annual price increase in line with the RPI rate of inflation published by the ONS. This year, our customers will see an increase in line with our terms and conditions.
“We know price increases are frustrating but we are committed to giving customers the best experience possible by offering benefits such as roaming in 71 worldwide destinations at no extra cost, streaming the latest TV shows and music without eating into data, 4G at no extra cost, plus access to weekly rewards and free stuff through our Wuntu app.”