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I have recently cancelled a 24 month contract with Three Ireland

for €40 per month, and...
I have recently cancelled a 24 month contract with Three Ireland for €40 per month, and there is a Cancellation Fee of €575.96 since the contract was not due to end until November 2013. I am after looking at my invoices since January this year and have come to the realization that they have been charging me €40.66 per month, not the agreed €40. They never informed me of this change to the contract, and I am quite sure that they placed a new limit on their Text All add-on of 150 texts per month, which was not the case when the contract started, however I do not have evidence of this since I never signed a contract in the first place (I ordered online) and one was never posted to me. Recently I went over the 150 text limit by approximately 200 texts, and my monthly bill more than doubled to €86.47.
What I would like to know is if I am liable to pay the cancellation fee of €575.96?
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Answered in 1 hour by:
10/2/2012
Buachaill
Buachaill, Lawyer
Category: Republic of Ireland Law
Satisfied Customers: 10,796
Experience: Barrister 17 years experience
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1. At the outset, you have to realise that if you agree to take out a package from a mobile phone company, even if online, you are agreeing to a contract on their standard terms & conditions. Consumer credit law does not interfere easily with contracts agreed to freely. As such, whilst you were overcharged and are entitled to credit for the extent of the overcharging you are still bound by the termination/cancellation of this contract you entered into. AS such you are bound to pay the money. There is nothing in Consumer Credit law which permits a consumer to avoid payment of penalty charges upon termination of a phone agreement. The National Consumer Agency. www.consumerconnect.ie has dealt with many complaints in relation to this type of practice and has not struck down penalty cancellation clauses in any agreement, mainly on the basis that the phone company is entitled to lay down this type of stipulation particularly where there is a phone provided at the outset of the contract. If you wish to utilise their online complaints process at the NCA you may do so. However, I regret to say that none of these challenges have been successful. Finally, given the sums involved, none of these cases ever wind up in litigation as the legal fees greatly outweigh any sums involved.

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Buachaill
Buachaill, Lawyer
Category: Republic of Ireland Law
Satisfied Customers: 10,796
Experience: Barrister 17 years experience
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Customer reply replied 5 years ago

Thank you for the response. It is in Threes terms and conditions that if they increase the monthly charge (as they did) then they will inform the customer, who will have up to 30 days to accept this new charge, or to reject it, in which case they can opt to have their contract terminated without the payment of a cancellation fee. However I was not informed by Three of this change to the bill. There is nothing in their terms and conditions to cover what should be the outcome if the customer is not informed of any additional charges to their bill. The only thing close to this is that the customer has 30 days to accept, or it will be deemed that they have accepted the new charges if no communication from the customer is received within the 30 day period.


I was not able to make a decision on this, since they failed to inform me of the change. What are my rights in this situation?

2. This is a totally different set of facts to what you have presented to me earlier. If Three's Terms & Conditions give authority to terminate the Agreement where there is an increase in the charges levied, then you do have good grounds for refusing to pay the cancellation fee, as until such times as you accept these increased charges, then the charges are not applicable and you can validly terminate the agreement. Under the terms of contract law, there must be disclosure of all material items by one party to another. "Deeming Clauses" whereby you are deemed to accept something without notice are not valid in law as they are unreasonable and fall foul of the Unfair Contact Terms REgulations. Accordingly, the option to terminate the agreement because of the increased charges is still open to you. You can thereby terminate the agreement by giving Three notice, thereby avoiding the payment of the cancellation fee. If Three do not accept this termination, you can make a complaint to the National Consumer Agency at the web address I outlined in my earlier response. Frame your complaint in terms of the non-acceptance of the termination of the agreement by you giving notice once y ou found out of the increased charges and the inapplicability of the "deeming clause" under the Unfair Contact Terms REgulations. There is an online complaint form you may fill out.. But first you must serve notice on Three to terminate the agreement validly.

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Buachaill
Buachaill, Lawyer
Category: Republic of Ireland Law
Satisfied Customers: 10,796
Experience: Barrister 17 years experience
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Customer reply replied 5 years ago

I informed Three about the increase in the bill, and this is what they had to say


"


We’ve informed all our customers about the increase in VAT through their bills. On the January bill, we had the following message, ‘Please note that the new VAT rate of 23% may mean your bill is slightly higher than expected’. I’ve attached a copy of your bill dated 18th January, 2012 for your reference.

The increase in VAT was implemented by the Government on 6th December, 2011. However, we implemented it on your bills from 1st January, 2012. There is no charging error on your bills and you’re liable to pay all the charges.


"


 


They attached a bill dated October for a woman in the UK. I have informed them that they have sent me the wrong bill, and I am waiting for their next response.


 


Given this information, do you agree that I am liable to pay the charges, even though I was paying through direct debit, and viewing the bill was not necessary, and at times difficult due to their ongoing website maintenance?


 


Surely an email or a text message stating this information clearly would have been the appropriate action for Three to take, not a side note on an invoice?


 


Thank you for your time,


Noel.

3. Where the increase in monthly payment occurred due to a VAT increase there is no way in which you will be able to use this as the basis for getting out of your contract and in effect paying the cancellation fee. Taxation is the law of the land and everyone must pay and no impact on existing contracts is allowed owing to tax changes. You will get nowhere with the argument that the Change in VAT gave you authority to get out of your contract. I don't agree that there was any obligation on Three Ireland to inform you by text or other note of tax changes as you as a taxpayer, are expected to be aware of the changes as well. I regret to say that this argument will fail.

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Buachaill
Buachaill, Lawyer
Category: Republic of Ireland Law
Satisfied Customers: 10,796
Experience: Barrister 17 years experience
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