Phone and Broadband Contracts
Most consumers are unsure about the full details of their contracts with phone and broadband service providers. This can sometimes cause problems later. This guide is designed to give advice on entering into phone and broadband contracts and outlines some of the most important things you should consider before entering into a contract with a service provider.
In this guide, we:
- list the different ways in which you can sign up for a service with a provider:
- explain the main information that you must get from a service provider about a contract; and
- list the points to consider before you enter into a contract.
About ComReg We are responsible for regulating the electronic communications (telecommunications, radio communications and broadcasting transmission) and postal sectors.
Signing up to a service
Once you decide to take up a particular phone and, or, broadband service, you can enter into a contract with a service provider in one of three ways:
by agreeing over the phone and having the conversation recorded (vCAF);
by signing a ‘customer authorisation form’ (CAF); or
by filling in an online customer authorisation form (eCAF).
Voice Customer Authorisation Form (vCAF)
Many telecommunications companies are now using this method. It involves agreeing to enter a contract over the phone without signing any forms or other documents.
The normal steps are that a sales agent will discuss the service with you and explain the contract. This is your chance to ask as many questions as necessary to help you understand the service. If you agree to enter a contract, the sales agent will transfer you to someone else to verify your agreement.
Under the vCAF process, there are two distinct parts to the call - the Sales element and the Verification element. All issues pertaining to the Sale / Win / Winback i.e. Customer's Name, UAN, Account Number, Telephone Number, Packages, Contract details and duration etc., are completed with during the Sales element of the call. Once the customer has agreed to purchase the Product the customer is taken through the verification script. This process is recorded and stored.
Customer authorisation form
This form is the traditional way of entering into an agreement. Once you sign it, you are making a binding contract with the service provider. As a result, you must be satisfied that you fully understand it and the service before you sign any forms. If you do sign, the provider should give you information on what to do if you change your mind about the contract.
Electronic customer authorisation form
This is the online version of the traditional authorisation form. You will usually fill it in on the service provider’s website. Once you do, you create a binding agreement, so we recommend that you record the details you enter and what you have signed up to.
Changing your mind
The period for changing your mind after initially agreeing to a contract is called a cooling-off period and comes under the Distance Selling Regulations. This legislation is administered by the National Consumer Agency. You have at least 7 days to change your mind.
The cooling-off period begins from when you enter into a service contract or when you receive the goods. The contract is not binding unless you receive written confirmation or confirmation in another durable form.
Although you are allowed to cancel the contract without any penalties during this cooling-off period, you will still have to pay for any phone and, or, broadband use with the service provider during this time.
The 7 working day period during which you can cancel without penalty applies to sales made over the phone/internet or by a salesperson calling to a consumer's home.
Click on links for further information from the National Consumer Agency on consumer rights regarding distance selling and doorstep selling.
Your rights when dealing with broadband or phone service providers
Right to see the full price list in advance
ComReg has issued a code of practice on pricing to all telecom service providers. This is in addition to the law on product pricing that all companies must follow. The three main principles in this code of practice are that the prices are accurate, understandable and easy to access. Under this code, service providers should:
- make sure printed price lists and websites are updated as soon as the prices come into effect;
- educate staff and agents about their role in providing accurate information;
- prove claims that their prices differ from the competition;
- outline minimum call charges and, or, call set up fees;
- advise how they handle and carry forward call credit;
- make sure prices include VAT; and
- outline where consumers can access the full list of terms and conditions for the product or service.
What should be in a contract?
As a consumer, you are entitled by law to have a contract. This contract must contain at least:
the name and address of the service provider;
the services provided, service quality levels and waiting periods for first-time connections;
the types of maintenance offered;
details of prices and tariffs and how to get up-to-date information on relevant tariffs and maintenance charges;
the length of the contract and the conditions for renewing or ending it;
information on any compensation and refund arrangements that apply if service quality levels are not met; and
details of how to complain and take action to settle disputes
The actual terms and conditions of a contract are not subject to approval by ComReg and as such are a matter of choice for you to decide whether to accept them or not. If you do not accept the terms on offer, do not enter into the contract. If the contract on offer does not cover the items listed above, you should first raise it with your service provider. If you are not satisfied with the service provider’s response, you can then refer the matter to ComReg.
Changes to a contract
Your service provider may wish to change the terms and conditions of its service, including changes to the prices it charges. By law it may do so but it must notify you of the change at the same time at least one month in advance. The service provider must advise you that you have the right to end the contract without penalty if you do not accept the change to the contract.
Paying attention to the ‘small print’ before you enter a contract
If you don’t take the time needed to examine the small print in a contract, you might be caught off guard if the service fails or a dispute arises with the service provider. Essentially, you should consider the following before you decide to enter a contract:
the minimum term of the contract, for example six months;
any add-on charges that apply;
the upper limits of calls or data downloads that are allowed during the billing period, for example a 10gb monthly data download limit;
how and when you must give notice that you want to cancel the contract, for example some service providers need thirty days notice;
whether you must make any final payments for using the service provider’s equipment such as a handset or a router;
how the charges are billed and if any are billed in advance, for example line rental charges are billed in advance;
whether the provider limits how payments are made, for example by asking for direct debit only;
how to renew the contract;
what after-sales service is available; and
how the service provider will handle disputes and complaints if they occur.
Information from ComReg
Our website www.callcosts.ie has clear pricing information for phone and broadband. This website also provides links to operators’ terms and conditions for each price plan and their code of practice for handling complaints.
How can I contact ComReg?
By phone (LoCall): *1890 229 668 / 01 804 9668 (9.00am to 5.30pm) Monday to Friday
*(Calls to 1890 numbers from landlines are charged at a local call rate, charges from mobile phones may vary depending on your operator)
By fax: (01) 804 9671
By email: email@example.com
Our websites are: www.comreg.ie / www.askcomreg.ie / www.callcosts.ie
By post: ComReg Consumer Team
Irish Life Centre
Lower Abbey Street
Other consumer organisations
Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland
Phone: (01) 660 8766
Broadcasting Commission of Ireland
Phone: (01) 676 0966
European Consumer Centre
Phone: (01) 809 0600
Office of the Data Protection Commissioner
Phone: (057) 868 4800
National Consumer Agency
Phone: 1890 432 432
Small Claims Court
Phone: (01) 888 6000