ANACOM urges operators to assess and mitigate the impact of price revisions on families and improve offer conditions

In the light of the current context of rising inflationary pressures in Portugal and the consequent increase in the cost of living, and given the levels of poverty in our country, ANACOM, as the regulatory authority for communications, has decided to adopt a recommendation addressed to providers of electronic communications services, urging them to consider the impact of their pricing policies on families, who are facing an unprecedented rise in the cost of living in recent history. This situation is further aggravated by the fact that, in Portugal, the proportion of household expenses with communication services, which are an essential public service, is higher than the European Union average.

In this context, ANACOM believes that there are important economic and social reasons which should be duly considered by companies in the sector in the context of any revisions of the prices of electronic communications services to take place in the coming months. Furthermore, very significant price increases are disruptive for consumers, so sharp changes in tariff conditions should be avoided. In this context, it is also particularly important to communicate and inform consumers of less expensive or more appropriate offers.

In ANACOM’s view this is one of the aspects of the social responsibility of these companies.

For these reasons, ANACOM, in compliance with its duty to protect the rights and interests of consumers and other end users, recommends providers of publicly available electronic communications services as follows:

  1. To ensure that, within the scope of the applicable legal and contractual rules, any price increases, either in tariffs available for new subscriptions or in contracts underway, to be implemented in the coming months, take into due consideration the social and economic context of the country, so as to ensure effective access to the service by end users of these services;
  2. Not to demand payment of contractually established charges in the event of early termination of the contract during the loyalty period by consumers subscribing to a social tariff offer for broadband internet access;
  3. To promote the conclusion of agreements for the fractioned payment of invoices in situations of difficulty or effective delay by the subscriber, in order to avoid suspension and subsequent termination of the contract, under the terms of the legal regime applicable to the suspension of services to end-users who are consumers, and also that the agreed instalments are of an amount that can be afforded by the consumer, taking into account his/her particular situation, as well as that, when appropriate, time limits are considered to allow the consumer to regain solvency and the ability to comply with the respective contractual obligations;
  4. To provide for contractual reduction without penalty, particularly for end users who prove to be in a vulnerable economic situation, even if not included in the situations legally provided for as grounds for temporary suspension of the contract or its termination;
  5. To make available a specific tariff advice service, through diversified customer service channels, enabling end users to obtain information on any alternative lower prices or more convenient and sparing offers, ensuring that customer service teams are properly trained to provide such advice or, where applicable directing end-users who so request or are in a position to benefit from it to service channels specially made available for this purpose, and adequately disclosing the respective contact details in a visible place on companies’ websites, as well as on monthly invoices of services and other means normally used in their communication with end-users;
  6. To promote the supply of offers with lighter formats, focused on the essential features, which do not include features or services that are not valued by consumers;
  7. To foster the appeal of isolated service offers (1P) and to improve their dissemination and visibility, both in digital communication channels and in physical shops where products for which the provider is responsible are available.