FACUA reports Movistar and Vodafone for increasing their rates without "valid grounds" as required by law

Price increases range from two to eight euros per month, depending on the company and service bundle.

FACUA reports Movistar and Vodafone for increasing their rates without

FACUA-Consumidores en Acción has reported Movistar and Vodafone for increasing the prices of their tariffs without justifying it on "valid grounds", as established by law. The complaints have been filed with the Ministry of Consumer Affairs and the consumer protection authorities of the 17 autonomous communities.

Since 12 January, Movistar has unilaterally increased the price of its Movistar Fusión bundled plans by two to three euros for those with fibre TV and by seven to eight euros for those with satellite TV. Vodafone, meanwhile, has increased the price of its Mini, Extra, Ilimitada, Ilimitada Inicial and Ilimitada Extra tariffs by 3 euros for bundled plans with fibre and by 1.50 euros for each additional mobile line.

The association states that the increase in the tariffs of these two companies without justification on "valid grounds" is a violation of Article 5 of Royal Decree 899/2009 of 22 May, which approves the Bill of Rights of the electronic communications services user, which establishes the right of users to receive the service under the conditions agreed with the operator, and Article 9, which states that "contracts for electronic communications services may only be modified for the valid reasons expressly provided for in the contract".

In this regard, FACUA considers that the reasons given by the two companies cannot be considered "valid grounds" that would allow them to unilaterally modify their terms and conditions. Vodafone has only reported that the price increase is in response to its desire to offer "greater benefits", which translate into unlimited data for its mobile lines that have not even been requested by subscribers.

Movistar argues 'increased costs'

Movistar, meanwhile, has simply told its customers that the increase in tariffs is due to an alleged "increase in the costs of scaling the network", in order to "provide it with better coverage" to allow "excellent connectivity in the telecommunications sector, where Movistar plays an essential role". However, it has not proved what these alleged costs are or how they affect the services provided to those subscribers affected by the increase.

In addition, the terms and conditions of Movistar Fusión establish a clause stating that the company "may modify the terms and conditions established in the contract and in particular its price" due to "increases in the costs of the business sector in which Movistar is present and which affect reception, the quality of the network or the characteristics of the service provided", among others

In its notifications, Movistar states that "in the last eight months there has been an 87% increase in the demand for data". However, FACUA warns that it is up to the company to maintain the necessary infrastructure to ensure the service in the quality conditions agreed in the contract. Therefore, neither the increase in costs that the company must assume to fulfil its obligations nor the increase in investments it makes to offer services with higher performance to new customers, to expand its infrastructure or to improve its position in the market can be considered as "valid grounds" for the modification of tariffs.

What the law says

Thus, the association understands that the increases imposed by telecommunications companies on their customers without being based on "valid grounds" meet the requirements to be considered unfair terms according to article 82 of Royal Legislative Decree 1/2007, of 16 November, which approves the consolidated text of the General Law for the Defence of Consumers and Users and other complementary laws, which defines as such those that "bind the contract to the will of the trader" and "determine the lack of reciprocity in the contract". In addition, Article 85.3 indicates that unfair terms are those that "reserve in favour of the trader powers of interpretation or unilateral modification of the contract".

On the other hand, Article 1.256 of the Civil Code indicates that "the contract's validity and fulfilment cannot be left to the discretion of one of the contracting parties", while Article 1.258 states that "contracts are perfected by mere consent, and from then on are binding, not only to the fulfilment of what has been expressly agreed, but also to all the consequences that, according to their nature, are in accordance with good faith, custom and the law".

The association has therefore denounced both companies to the 17 autonomous communities and to the Directorate General for Consumer Affairs of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs. All the regional consumer administrations have the power to impose financial penalties on the companies for the irregularities reported.

Increases since 2015

The association recalls that Movistar has already raised its Movistar Fusión bundles eight times since May 2015, when it first increased them by 5 euros after it launched these tariffs in September 2012 with the advert that it would keep its prices "forever".

Vodafone also has several tariff increases in a row. The company also joined the 2015 increase and raised its bundled plans by one to two euros. In 2016, the rise was of 2 to 3 euros.