Consumers ought to be able to change their operator or the provider of pay TV services easier than at the moment, the Nordic Consumer Ombudsmen stated at their meeting in Island. Indefinite contracts can be terminated quickly if needed and, therefore, they are preferable over fixed-term contracts.
Communication services, such as mobile phone and broadband connections as well as pay TV services, are undergoing a constant change. New services and service providers are entering the market all the time. It is important that the consumers should be able to freely try these and select the options that are best for them.
However, currently free choice cannot be exercised in the best possible way. The ability of the consumers in the Nordic countries to change the service provider is limited due to long fixed-term agreements, long periods of notice and unreasonable termination fees, among other things.
According to the Nordic Consumer Ombudsmen, instead of favouring fixed-term contracts the consumer should give preference to more flexible indefinite contracts, which the consumer could, when needed, quickly terminate by giving a notice. Currently the duration of fixed-term contracts in the Nordic countries varies between 6 and 24 months. Already in 2012, the Nordic Consumer Ombudsmen aligned their policies, suggesting that the fixed-term contracts in communication services should be limited to six months at most.
If the service does no longer meet the consumer’s requirements, he/she ought to be able to terminate the agreement and change the service provider if necessary. The view of the Nordic Consumer Ombudsmen is that the period of notice should not exceed one month. Giving notice should not incur extra fees or involve complicated formal requirements, either. Service providers should earn their customer’s loyalty by keeping them satisfied and not by forcibly binding them to long fixed-term contracts.
The Nordic Consumer Ombudsmen have declared their position in the matter to the European Commission and expressed as their wish that the Commission would pay attention to the views presented.
Nordic Consumer Ombudsmen: Maximum length of fixed-term agreements should be cut to six months (Press release by the Finnish Consumer Agency 2 April 2012)