Telenor faced criticism from Norway's consumer ombudsman over a smartphone trade-in programme that sees some popular models cost close to NOK800 (€85.87/$96.73) more than straight cash purchases.
In a letter, ombudsman Forbrukerombudet accused the operator of misleading consumers by claiming its SWAP trade-in scheme effectively enables subscribers to acquire a new smartphone at half price by upgrading their device halfway through their 24-month contract.
Telenor's programme offers subscribers the option to agree a new 24-month contract after the first 12 months of their existing deal. Consumers who take up the deal are offered a new smartphone payment contract and told they can write off the remaining payments relating to their original device.
Forbrukerombudet challenged Telenor's assertion that the upgrade option effectively means that consumers' original devices are, therefore, half price.
The ombudsman also claims that the cost of the replacement smartphones consumers receive are actually higher than if the subscriber just purchased a new unit outright. For example the cost of a Samsung Galaxy S7 model was NOK797 higher in the SWAP programme, the ombudsman stated.
A further criticism levelled at Telenor is that its terms and conditions are short or incomplete, and are typically only made available to consumers in the latter stages of the smartphone ordering process. Forbrukerombudet argued that Telenor must make the terms and conditions available at an earlier stage to allow consumers to make an informed choice on whether to proceed or not.
Forbrukerombudet noted that because it does not believe Telenor is living up to the claims of its SWAP marketing materials, it considers any agreement the operator strikes with consumers to be a credit agreement. In that context, Telenor fails to comply with the rules covering credit agreements, which includes a requirement for the consumer to sign the agreement in addition to the operator.
The consumer ombudsman has given Telenor until Jun. 16 to respond to its letter and amend its marketing materials regarding the trade-in programme.
Telenor faced a similar complaint and deadline from the ombudsman regarding claims its mobile broadband network is the fastest in Norway, Inside Telecom reported.
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