Contract Hostages: Average Person Tied in to 16 Years' Worth of Contracts Costing £80,000

Oct 17, 2012, 10:58 ET from giffgaff

LONDON, October 17, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --

Legal jargon, cunning marketing initiatives and automatic contract rollovers ensnaring millions of unsuspecting Brits

The average British consumer is enslaved to 16 years' worth of contracts costing an average of £80,880 - or £5,000 a year. Research released today reveals the length of Britain's contract sentence for products and services ranging from bank loans and utilities to digital TV and broadband, with over half of Brits (55%) admitting they've been stung by legal jargon and complex clauses hidden within their contracts, and in supporting information.

Today's Life out of Contract Report, published by mobile network giffgaff, finds that among these consumers:

  • 65% have faced fines and penalties for extricating themselves from an unexpired contract
  • A third (33%) have signed for goods and services despite being confused by the legal speak within the contract, leaving them unsure what they're buying in to
  • Almost one in four (24%) have been slapped with extra charges outside of their original agreement once the paperwork has been signed
  • More than a fifth (22%) claim salespeople have failed to point out key contract clauses during the sales pitch
  • 17% have only received their contract after they'd either agreed to a sale or parted with their cash - with the digital TV industry being the most likely to employ this unethical practice

It therefore comes as little surprise that 46% of Brits don't feel that they get the full value from the contracts they're signed up to and three-quarters (75%) don't trust their suppliers to offer them the best deals and rates for their needs.

Mobile phone contracts top consumers' list in terms of dissatisfaction - the mobile industry is seen as far and away the worst at trapping consumers in lengthy contracts, with almost 40% of people singling mobile networks out as the worst contract culprits. Over half of iPhone users (51%), 48% of Blackberry users and 62% of HTC customers are locked in to cast-iron 24-month contracts that aren't delivering value. More than a quarter of iPhones (27%), one in five Blackberrys and one in five (21%) HTC handsets become unusable before their contracts expire.

giffgaff's Life out of Contract Report finds that Brits spend more than £155.6m replacing or repairing phones that break and become unusable before their Pay Monthly contracts are up, yet at the same time one in 10 (10%) admit to ignoring the T&Cs of their mobile contract, having little or no idea what they signed up in the first place.

The research also reveals that many people are in the dark about what constitutes a contract or a binding agreement:

  • Over half (53%) think that as long as they don't sign on the dotted line, they aren't committed (this is false as you don't need to sign a contract to have entered into one).
  •  Three-quarters (75%) of people are unaware that an e-mail can act as a contract and over 85% don't realise that a text message can be regarded as a contract - and, surprisingly, the generation who have grown up with the Internet are the least savvy when it comes to entering a contract via e-mail or text.
  • In the workplace, one in four (26%) don't realise they're bound to a contract of employment, and a third (33%) believe that a handshake constitutes a contractual agreement.

gifffgaff CEO, Mike Fairman, added:

'It's wrong that so many people are being blindsided into long contracts they don't understand - companies just shouldn't assume that their customers can understand legal jargon that ties them into onerous commitments with no wriggle room. We believe that life is better out of contract - it's about time companies listened to what their customers want. One in five people would rather have the freedom and flexibility of PAYG, but, wrongly, see contracts as a necessary evil.'

giffgaff is a community-led SIM-only PAYGmobile operator. It offers goodybags with a mix of UK calls, text and Internet that last for 30 days.

Notes to Editors

giffgaff commissioned research among a nationally representative sample of UK adults in September 2012.

What is giffgaff?

  • giffgaff is a community-led SIM-only PAYG mobile operator which keeps costs low by encouraging its community members to help grow and run the business
  • giffgaff has an customer satisfaction index of 84% and a Net Promoter Score of 75% (July 11)
  • giffgaff doesn't do big-budget advertising, instead it keeps costs low by using online channels and encouraging its community members to spread the word amongst their friends
  • giffgaff has a simple, competitive pricing structure for PAYG, with absolutely no sting in its tail:
    • Calls are charged at 10p per minute and 6p per text
    • Free member to member (giffgaff to giffgaff) calls and texts
    • Competitive international call rates
    • Free calls to 0800 numbers


SOURCE giffgaff