Saturday, May 26The Voice of London

UK customers left out of pocket thanks to phone network companies

Greedy mobile phone network companies rip off customers with hidden costs, warns Citizen watchdog.

Phone companies have been charging customers for handsets that have already been paid off.

Citizen Advice, the leading consumer charity in the UK, found that three out of four leading mobile phone network services have been overcharging their loyal customers.

“It’s dishonest not telling us, they’re lying by omission.”

The new research claims that people are still being charged for handsets they’ve already paid off due to companies not lowering contract prices after the fixed term period.

If you buy a phone on contract, as most of us do (because who has a spare £700 lying around?) After that fixed term period the cost of the phone is paid for and you should change your contract, or you could end up paying out hundreds of pounds paying for a phone that you already own.

The average price of a contract for an iPhone 8 is £35, Stefan Dean, a 23-year-old student at the University of Westminster said: “they should let customers know when they come to the end of the contract, it’s dishonest not telling us, they’re lying by omission.”

 

Customers who chose to stay on the same phone plan with Vodafone, EE and Three do not get their bills reduced. About 36 per cent of customers stayed in the same contract after the end of their fixed deal period, leaving the average customers being overcharged an extra £264 a year. That’s £22 per month, for nothing.

Minister for Digital, Matt Hancock told the BBC: “It’s only right that mobile customers should be notified when they have paid off the price of their handset, and that their future bills should reflect this.”

“No one is automatically entitled to compensation.”

This is not the first time mobile network companies have been in trouble for overcharging customers. Earlier this year, EE was fined over two million pounds for overcharging customers on call time.

The phone companies were quick to defend themselves and have released statements about the way their contracts work. Three said: “Whenever a new customer signs with us, we make the end-date of the contract term very clear. We also let them know that they can contact us at any time to discuss the range of options available should they wish to change their plan with us.” And EE commented: “Separating phone and tariff doesn’t always represent the best deal for consumers, it can sometimes result in them paying more.” Vodafone told the BBC it strives to give customers “the price plan that best suits them”.

Customers affected by the hidden costs can ask their company to swap them to a sim-only contract or end the contract and move to a different provider. No one is automatically entitled to compensation- consumers have been warned by Citizen Advice to make a claim only if it wasn’t made clear in their contracts that it would continue at the same price.

 

 

Words: Leanne Hall

Subbed: Michael Ward

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