Mobile phone companies urged to protect users from shock bills

Richard Lloyd  Which? executive director
Richard Lloyd Which? executive director
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PEOPLE are “fast losing trust” with mobile phone operators, who should do more to protect customers who face huge bills if their handset is lost of stolen, a consumer group has said.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced in December 2013 that four companies - Three, EE, Vodafone and Virgin Media Mobile - had agreed to introduce a liability limit to protect customers from excessive bills if their phone is used fraudulently.

But more than a year on, neither Vodafone, EE and Virgin Media Mobile nor O2 have not implemented a limit, Which? said.Three has introduced a cap but customers still have to pay the first £100 if the loss or theft is reported within 24 hours, and all the charges if it is reported missing beyond that time.

The consumer group found a third of those with a mobile phone contract would find it difficult to cope with an unexpected expense of £100, and 59 per cent thought they should not have to pay any of the costs incurred from fraudulent use.

Which? said mobile companies should also give consumers a reasonable length of time to report a lost or stolen phone. The watchdog is urging operators to stop charging customers anything if phones are reported lost or stolen within 48 hours, make it easier for consumers to report a loss or theft and implement an industry-wide plan to protect consumers from shock bills.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: “People should not have to foot the bill if criminals run up expensive charges when their phone is lost or stolen.

“Mobile firms agreed to introduce a limit on excessive costs over a year ago but have still not implemented safeguards that really protect their customers.

“Consumers are already losing out to the tune of more than £5 billion by not being on the best mobile deals. With people fast losing trust in mobile operators, it’s time for the industry to keep its promise and ensure that no-one is faced with more unfair cost through no fault of their own.”