Mystery shopping is used for a variety of reasons, but this one has led to a formal complaint.
Which?, a UK based consumer association provides independent advice to consumers in many mobile and technology based services. In July, they conducted a mystery shopping project to evaluate the information provided by employees regarding mobile contracts. Specifically, they were seeking data to find out what consumers were being told about fixed rate contracts to determine if accurate information was provided.
Surprisingly, they found that 82% of the employees provided inaccurate information, stating that the price would indeed be fixed throughout the length of the contract, and did not mention any potential price increases. Even when specifically asked, a signficant number of employees assured the consumer that the prices would not go up.
This is in fact not true, as “four out of five of the main UK phone operators – Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile and Three – have taken advantage of a loop hole that allows them to increase prices on contracts that are marketed as ‘fixed’. Which? believes that this practice is earning the industry up to £90m a year.”
Additional consumer research found that 70% of those interviewed were not aware of the possibility that their price can go up during the length of the contract.
The findings of this study have led to Which? filing a formal complaint with Ofcom, a UK communications regulator, and have launched a “Fixed Means Fixed” campaign.
It will be an interesting story to follow, and illustrates yet another use for mystery shopping programs.