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What to Do if You Have a Complaint about or Problem with Your Mobile Phone Contract

Under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999, consumers are protected against unfair terms in contracts that they may have agreed to with those selling goods or services. These regulations seek to ensure that contracts that attempt to void the rights of consumers, or are simply not fair to them, are not treated as binding and therefore not able to harm consumers.

Essentially, this legislation sets out certain cases in which contractual terms are considered unfair. When they are seen to be unfair, they are then declared to no longer hold any sway. Only fair contracts will exert any legal pull over those who agree to them.

In order to be considered fair, the terms of a contract must meet the requirement of good faith. Essentially, this means that the terms must not be set out in an attempt to deceive consumers or to unnecessarily weight the contract in the trader’s favour.

Of course, traders are permitted to draft the terms in order to meet the needs of their businesses, but they may not do so without taking the rights of consumers into account, and are expected to do so only to the extent that is necessary to protect their own dealings.

These limitations do not apply to the ‘core terms’ of the contract, however. Core terms are those parts of the contract which define the product or service being offered or set out the price for which it is being offered. As long as these are phrased in plain language (see below), they cannot be scrutinised for fairness, as they form the very basis of the contract to which the consumer agreed.

There is also a ‘plain language’ requirement for contracts. Traders must not attempt to mislead consumers through unclear or unnecessarily complicated language – instead, contractual terms must be described in a plain and intelligible fashion which is understandable to the layman.

It is not just vague or subjective terms which come under fire here, because even terminology which is technically legally correct but not comprehensible to the average person can get a trader in trouble. If it takes a lawyer to understand it, it doesn’t count as “fair” in a consumer contract.

There are some exemptions to these regulations. Terms not covered under these rules include terms which are legally required to be included in a contract and non-standard terms which were individually agreed upon by both parties.

Contracts exclusively between businesses or private individuals are also not regulated by these rules, and they do not apply to contracts entered into prior to 1995.

The Office of Fair Trading is in charge of judging whether or not consumer contract terms are fair or unfair, and are able to void contracts where it is believed that a trader is trying to mistreat their customers.