CONSUMER protection group FACUA has filed legal action against mobile network provider Vodafone for having announced it will put its prices up from April 18.
The increase of between €2 and €3 applies to mobile, landline, internet and other customers.
FACUA says Vodafone's 'excuse' is that it intends to 'improve the quality of its services', but that it 'does not offer its users the possibility of maintaining original conditions' stated in the contract they initially signed.
According to the consumer group, two aspects of the price increase are illegal – firstly, that customers of Vodafone have not been given a minimum of a month's notice in writing, as telecommunications law requires; and secondly, because customers who signed up for a compulsory minimum fixed period may not have any of the terms and conditions of the deal altered, except in their favour, until the renewal or expiry date.
“Customers have the right to sever the deal if they do not agree with the price rise, to demand the company maintains the current price as a maximum until the end of the contract term, or request financial compensation equivalent to the amount stated in the penalty clause for breach of contract,” FACUA reveals.
The association says it 'appears likely' Vodafone will 'refuse to meet its legal obligations', and therefore recommends customers 'file legal complaints with the consumer protection authorities' in their specific region, requesting 'disciplinary action' be opened against the firm.
Anyone who is tied in with a contract to Vodafone and has not been notified in writing at least a month ahead of the planned price rise has the right to apply to his or her local court, verbally, for a breach of contract case.
In the case of the latter, the customer does not need to appoint a lawyer, since the price rise, per se, is a case of res ipsa loquituur, or the breach of contract speaks for itself.
If the customer wants to keep his or her contract with Vodafone going, FACUA says he or she can file a claim through the court in his or her town, ordering the telecommunications company to maintain the initial offer price until the lock-in period comes to an end, and to refund any extra Vodafone has charged over and above this sum.
Otherwise, the customer can end the contract without penalty and demand Vodafone pay him or her the sum stated in the lock-in deal as a penalty charge for early release.
This sum is normally payable by a customer who wants to break off the contract before renewal, since it is a penalty for breach of the terms and conditions – and as Vodafone has breached these terms and conditions, it works both ways and the customer should be paid accordingly, FACUA explains.
An easier, cheaper, less complex and quicker method than going through the courts is to take the case to arbitration, FACUA explains.
The outcome of arbitration is binding upon both parties, and neither is allowed to take the matter further through the normal legal channels.