The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has imposed fines on telecom providers KPN, Tele2, T-Mobile and Vodafone for displaying incorrect and incomplete information about their offerings on their websites for consumers. Mobile plans are sold over their websites, among other sales channels. Consumers must be able to find correct and complete information about the products and services on offer. With such information, consumers are able to make proper comparisons, and to choose what plan meets their needs best. Four telecom providers did not meet this requirement. ACM has therefore imposed the following fines:
|Fine on KPN||3,473,500 euros|
|Fine on Tele2||2,715,000 euros|
|Fine on T-Mobile||3,907,000 euros|
|Fine on Vodafone||3,120,500 euros|
Cateautje Hijmans van den Bergh, Member of the Board of ACM, comments: “Websites are a key channel with which telecom providers communicate with consumers. That is why it is so important that, when visiting websites, consumers are properly and fully informed about the offerings they find on them. This is necessary so that they are able to take informed decisions, and to make purchases with confidence. Furthermore, incorrect or incomplete information may lead to unfair competition.”
Having clear information is important
Through its consumer information portal ACM ConsuWijzer, ACM has received reports about unexpected costs and hefty bills from telecom providers. Moreover, previous studies conducted by ACM among consumers have revealed that they find it important having clear information about prices in the telecom sector. ACM sets great store by correct information, since the two most important factors on which consumers base their purchasing decisions are price and the plan’s features.
The law sets out general rules with regard to these factors. How these rules should be applied to the telecom sector is explained in a document drawn up by ACM, containing several basic principles, which had been discussed with the four telecom providers. ACM had also announced it would evaluate the telecom providers’ websites. Subsequently, ACM established several months later that the telecom providers still had not mended their ways. That is why ACM has now imposed fines for the following violations:
- When offering plans, failing to present clearly the one-off costs, thereby making the deal look cheaper than it actually is (KPN, Tele2, T-Mobile, Vodafone);
- Stating that data plans had ‘unlimited data’, whereas this was not the case within the EU (Tele2, T-Mobile);
- Offering voice and text plans as ‘unlimited plans’, whereas a maximum of 3,000 voice minutes or texts applied (KPN);
- Offering a plan combined with a phone at a price that only applied to consumers who were already broadband customers of Ziggo. If you were not already a Ziggo customer, the plan would cost 5 euros more (Vodafone).
New fining rules
On July 1, 2016, the maximum fine that ACM can impose, was raised to 900,000 euros or, whichever is higher, 1% of the offender’s annual turnover. In this case, ACM, for the first time ever, imposed turnover-based fines for violations of consumer rules. That is why these fines are considerably higher than previous fines that ACM had imposed for similar violations.
30-12-2019 Basic principles for transparent offers by telecom providers (in Dutch)
30-12-2019 Fine on KPN for unfair commercial practices on websites (in Dutch)
30-12-2019 Fine on Tele2 for unfair commercial practices on websites (in Dutch)
30-12-2019 Fine on T-Mobile for unfair commercial practices on websites (in Dutch)
30-12-2019 Fine on Vodafone for unfair commercial practices on websites (in Dutch)