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Mobile firms face court on contracts

Consumer group accuses operators of "abusive clauses" containing hidden limits and hidden penalties

CONSUMERS' group UFC-Que Choisir is taking 10 major telecoms companies to court over "abusive clauses" in their low-cost mobile phone contracts.

B & You (Bouygues Telecom), Coriolis, Free Mobile, La Poste Mobile, Numericable, Prixtel, Red (SFR), SIM+, Sosh (Orange), Virgin Mobile and Zéro Forfait have all been accused of tricking customers with "unlimited" contracts which had hidden limits and hidden penalties.

UFC-Que Choisir has lodged a complaint with the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris calling for the clauses to be legally struck out. It had warned the operators in February to change their contracts but said there had not been enough movement in talks.

The group said it was pleased that the companies had at least recognised that their use of the term "unlimited" was "inexact" but it regretted the "lack of transparency over the unlimited 3G deals".

It particularly targeted Numericable, which had an unlimited contract that only allowed 14 hours' use a month and had lodged a complaint accusing the company of "false advertising".

UFC-Que Choisir said "today, like yesterday" consumers "still did not know exactly what was hidden behind low-cost contracts".

Companies were also accused of using contract clauses that were "particularly prejudicial" for the consumer - with nine of them limiting their own responsiblity to clients.

UFC-Que Choisir said heavy users were accused of abusing the network with vague contract terms such as "bad usage", "excessive usage", "mass emailing" and users also faced varied and unquantified sanctions from extra fees, suspension or even cancellation of contracts.

Elsewhere, it said operators also charged illicit fees, some of which were even - as in the case of La Poste Mobile and Sim+ with the recovery of costs for unpaid bills - banned by law.

Nine of the companies were accused of demanding interim payments in the middle of a month if a client was nearing their usage limits.
Photo: Wisky - Fotolia.com

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