back to article Brits pay £490m extra for mobes they already own – Citizens Advice

Brits forked out £490m extra on their last mobile phone contract because of bundled handset charges that continued long after the device was paid for, Citizens Advice has said. The charity today slammed networks that allow customers to stay locked into higher-cost agreements. It analysed more than 700 phone tariffs from EE, …

  1. AndyMulhearn
    Stop

    Astonishing isn't it

    That mobile companies carry on doing this with what seems to be complete impunity. Aside from O2, who separate the loan for the phone element from the services element, they all carry on taking payments for something, in some cases long after the price has been paid in full. It's more than astonishing actually, it beggars belief that they carry on getting away with this.

    Aside from the words above, speechless.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Astonishing isn't it

      People are stupid.

      There's free money in doing it for the mobile companies.

      Anyone with a brain buys their phone outright or via a separate loan agreement (e.g. giffgaff offer completely unrelated loans on all the top brands of phones).

      I have literally met 18/19-year olds who are paying more for their phone each month than they are food. I mean, hell, sometimes even the parent's Sky package is cheaper!

      There comes a point where it's just a stupidity tax that we should let those people pay.

      1. NumptyScrub

        Re: Astonishing isn't it

        There comes a point where it's just a stupidity tax that we should let those people pay.

        If we're going down the victim blaming road, how far are you willing to travel before you change from "it's their fault they got conned" to "that's fraud and should be punished"?

        It is entirely within the bounds of technology to drop the tariff to the equivalent SIM-only price once the initial term is over, and if the customer is paying Direct Debit this can be an entirely automated process. It is also entirely possible to show both figures at time of purchase (monthly cost for the first 24 months, and monthly cost thereafter), so that consumers can make an informed choice when choosing a particular deal.

        Is it really the fault of the customer that they are being charged for a product that has already been delivered, or the fault of the provider for choosing not to implement a technical solution that would resolve the issue entirely?

        1. Timmy B Silver badge

          Re: Astonishing isn't it

          "Is it really the fault of the customer that they are being charged for a product that has already been delivered, or the fault of the provider for choosing not to implement a technical solution that would resolve the issue entirely?"

          Yes. It's the customers fault. If you are paying money for something then it is down to you to agree what to pay and how long for and for you to monitor what happens at the end of that agreement. Different if they go outside the agreement but both sides signed an agreement.

      2. AndyMulhearn

        Re: Astonishing isn't it

        People are stupid.

        There is some of that. But it depends on how the contract is sold. IIRC - I've not had a phone contract for a few years - you get a contract that covers both elements. What I suspect you don't get is a statement either way that says what happens at the end of the term.

        With these guys I'd hazard a guess that there's no "And we will carry on taking a payment for the phone even after you pass the end of the contract because we can" so it's not clear to people what happens. And to be frank, most would assume they only pay what they should because that's how most "loans" work.

        1. Lee D Silver badge

          Re: Astonishing isn't it

          Do you know how many people I know who have "bought a new car" on only to realise three years later that they didn't read the small print and now they have to pay some huge portion of the overall cost or lose the car entirely?

          If people sign up to a long agreement and then FORGET that they've done so... and then let that linger for any significant portion of time, when they were given the contract, had it all explained, have it there in writing in front of them? Yeah, I think there's an element of "learning experience" there for them.

          The exact people who get those agreements are the exact people who can't *afford* to be sloppy with money because they couldn't even afford to buy their phone outright. Though that might flag as something we should babysit for them, I really think we'd be better off just leaving them to it.

          There isn't a court in the land that would demand the mobile companies "pay back" that unnecessary extra paid as every piece of paper they have clearly lays out what they're paying, how long for and what it'll cost. That people just let that roll over, without even phoning up the company and saying "I seem to have been paying for this an awful long time now" or "I can get a better deal elsewhere", means they don't care.

          And it's for something that I consider a luxury item. Smartphones don't have to be luxury items, but the ones you need to take out finance just to purchase them? Yeah, that's a luxury item for you, I'm afraid.

          1. aks

            Re: Astonishing isn't it

            The problem with calling the company is that you reach a call centre who can't deal with your account.

            You need to go round in circles until it gets escalated to the relevant finance team. This may even need to be raised as a formal dispute and involve the company appointed ombudsman, who will have the power to check the facts and chase the finance team.

            When I went down this path the ombudsman judged in my favour but the finance team then produced incorrect information to cancel what the ombudsman said. Only a second session with the ombudsman resulted in me being correctly treated.

            At that point the operator decided to pay me the refund but then chose to cancel the contract with immediate effect.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Astonishing isn't it

              "The problem with calling the company is that you reach a call centre who can't deal with your account."

              When my wifes phone was paid for, we phoned Virgin and they couldn't have been more helpful. I asked what sim only deals they ahd we could switch to and the nice lady at VM looked at the usage pattern and suggested an unlisted £5 per month deal for something like 200mins/2GB data/unlimited texts. That's more than she needs at a very nice price. She's been on that deal for about 4 years now. I think it's now £5.50pcm after prices rise(s).

      3. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: Astonishing isn't it

        @Lee D, sorry but I absolutely disagree.

        The mobile phone companies known full well when the subsidy for the mobile phone is fulfilled and the device paid off. There is *nothing*, and I mean *nothing*, stopping them technology-wise to send a message at the end of the contract term to say "hey there, your contract term has ended, and as such your phone is paid off, so we're dropping the subsidy element of your monthly fee from next month."

        If they can do it for things like Spotify/NowTV/Sky Sports (with Vodafone) or other 'goodies' that are part of your bundle, they can do this for the phone too. But, there are some providers who effectively use the subsidy as a 'lease', so you get free upgrades whenever you become eligible, whether you want/need them or not.

        I *do* agree with you though that "let's force the mobile companies to pay everyone back" is stupid. Force them to change their procedures, sure, but forcing them to refund? Nah.

    2. Mongrel

      Re: Astonishing isn't it

      Tesco Mobile also do this, the prices on the website are basically "Pick your phone and how long you want the contract to be then add a data\calls package".

      On a side note it's also nice that I've never had the desperate slew of upgrade calls every year from them or attempts to up sell my paltry SIM deal.

    3. aks

      Re: Astonishing isn't it

      I'm surprised that somebody hasn't taken the operator to court for charging for a service that's not being delivered.

      There must be some clever weasel-words in the contract.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Astonishing isn't it

        >I'm surprised that somebody hasn't taken the operator to court for charging for a service that's not being delivered.

        We had to do this with Vermin Media Business - they were charging us (two years after the fact) for lines that we had cancelled - despite acknowledging the cancellation and *actually* cancelling the line.

        Their excuse? "Well - you didn't tell us to stop charging you".

        After months ot arguement, we decided to take them to court. Amazingly, we got the refund pretty swiftly after that..

        1. Lee D Silver badge

          Re: Astonishing isn't it

          Charging for a promised service that isn't delivered is an entirely different thing.

          The contracts will be clearly written, however, to say "you will pay X per month until Y when you will pay Z per month". And "After N months, you will own the phone".

          NOWHERE will it say that you're still paying for the phone with the surplus after those months. You're not. You're paying for a contract which contains items which include, to whit, the provision of one telephone over the life of the contract. That you then continue to pay it unnecessarily for years afterwards is completely different to, say, VM charging you for a line you don't even have.

    4. Boo Radley

      Re: Astonishing isn't it

      In other news, millions in the US are paying every month for landlines telephone sets that they trashed long ago. The last figure, some years ago, was 30 million people.

  2. druck
    Happy

    O2 dont

    In case you didn't spot the missing operator from the list, O2 don't do this, and automatically transfer you to a cheaper SIM only contract if you don't upgrade your phone - or at least thats what happened 2 years ago when my contract ended.

    1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: O2 dont

      Thats not right, when I had my Blackberry Q10 with O2 they had already seperated the plans.

      Two seperate payments each month, when the phone was paid the second payment stopped as the phone was paid for. I didn't think O2 still did the more "traditional" plans?

    2. d3vy Silver badge

      Re: O2 dont

      O2 go to the length of having separate direct debits for the handset and the tarrif.. so when your handset loan finishes they just stop collecting it.

      They also show you the outstanding balance in the myO2 app and allow you to pay off early if you want too.

      It's rare I say this but I really can't fault O2, I've been with a few providers and they're by far the best.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: O2 dont

        Tesco and others use the ) O2 network and you get the same from them too. When I had my windows phone (sadly missed) the cost went down to about £3/month on expiry of contract period.

  3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Can someone please remind of the upsides of a mobile contract...

    as opposed to buying a phone outright (or from someone other than the Phone Company or PC-World) and getting a SIM only deal from the network of your choice?

    What? is that Tumblweed blowing in the wind from Storm Ali?

    Once upon a time there was a need for mobile contracts that included the device. These days? not really.

    1. ARGO

      Re: Can someone please remind of the upsides of a mobile contract...

      That the device won't have all features enabled for your chosen network unless you buy it from that network. And networks are not keen to sell a device without a contract. VoLTE is a current example - get a custom device from your network and everything is shiny, bring in one from elsewhere and that service won't work.

      The device vendors are working on network id based auto-config to fix this, but don't hold your breath for UK network settings in anything that isn't widely sold in the UK.

      (That said, Apple have had this capability for years and do it through an online database lookup rather than stored in the device. So their models work properly everywhere.)

    2. shifty_powers

      Re: Can someone please remind of the upsides of a mobile contract...

      Because not everyone can afford the insane cost of even mid-range phones and the ability to amortise the cost across the contract length can be very useful?

      And the 'you don't need an all-singing, all-dancing smart phone' argument is a red herring. YOU may not, other people will. And on such a subjective point, the only person who gets to determine the validity of what they need is the individual involved.

      1. NXM

        Re: Can someone please remind of the upsides of a mobile contract...

        The bundle is part of the reason for the insane cost of the phone. People aren't going to fork out a grand for the latest iThing when they can gat an 'affordable' monthly payment instead. This allows the manufacturers, with their accomplices the network operators, to hike the price. Win win!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Can someone please remind of the upsides of a mobile contract...

        Not buying a Contract means that you can have the phone that you want not what the networks decide to offer.

        Also if you are on Android and decide that you want to use an alternative build you can as the phone is yours.

        If as we always hear, Android is about choice then buying the phone of your choice and using the OA of your choice on the network of your choice is what it is all about isn't it?

    3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Can someone please remind of the upsides of a mobile contract...

      as opposed to buying a phone outright

      Lower initial outlet. There are quite a few people that want the latest SHINY SHINY but don't have the £800-£1500 at hand to buy it outright[1].

      So they go for a HP-type deal.

      [1] Of course, there is an arguement that they should save for such purchases but that's not going to happen either..

  4. Hans 1 Silver badge
    Windows

    Have them ask for a refund ?

    1. VinceH Silver badge

      "Have them ask for a refund ?"

      The deadline for claiming back PPI is getting nearer - so there does need to be a new thing people can claim back in order for the PPI claim companies to stay in business.

  5. SkippyBing Silver badge

    How?

    How do people not know they're contract is coming to end? Whenever I've got close to it I'm inundated with phone calls and texts asking if I want to upgrade, which reminds me to go onto a sim only tariff on those occasions I've gone down the bundled route to get a phone*.

    *It oddly worked out cheaper one time.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: How? Because the phone is free innit????!!!

      People, in a vague, unconsidered way think that they are just paying for the network, and get a "free" phone. And the marketing has allowed them to think this by the way it's worded. You get a such and such choice of phone if you take this such and such contract. Also the nature of that never ending payment reinforces this*, the contract is for £xx a month including phone. Never until phone is bought.

      *O2 and associates (Tesco etc) aside

  6. Aaiieeee

    Yes, but

    On some level you have to take personal responsibility such that if your money is important you will do your best to ensure it is well allocated. This includes checking in on your expenses and what you expected to pay for an item. Yes it can be boring but it is the money you spent a lifetime earning, take an interest!

    My Nokia 3 cost £110 outright and monthly costs is £7.50. This is not particularly difficult to work with. I have no interest in phones and hunting for a phone wasn't fun, but I understand my arrangement and am happy with it.

    On the other hand it seems entirely reasonable that after something has been paid off the payments for the item should stop without question or prompting.

    Since companies are not looking out for my best interests I automatically assume I have to do everything myself, but I guess most people don't have this attitude.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yes, but

      I tend to agree but I wouldn't be happy if my mortgage company continued to take payments after I'd paid off the mortgage.... should that ever happen!

      1. Gavin Chester

        Hmmm

        To be honest you may not be happy but unless you make sure you cancel the DD to them Mortgage company they will still try and take it.

        Not its not personal experience, but one of a friend who trusted the Mortgage company to stop once they took the final payment without checking.

  7. Mr Gullible

    A tech company with Ethics?

    Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather.

    Well done O2! (who's broadband service was also excellent before they sold it).

  8. Oddlegs

    I'm struggling to have sympathy for people who sign up to an £x per month contract for 24 months which includes a 'free' phone and don't think to check after those 24 months are up whether they're still on a good deal.

    Mortgages, broadband, television, utility bills and just about every type of recurring payment has some provision for what happens when you complete your fixed term and not a single one of them puts the price down automatically at the end of it despite you having paid off the cost of your Sky box or router. The costs of being moved onto your mortgage provider's SVR after your fixed term end will dwarf any mobile bill.

    Not all mobile contracts are necessarilly bad deals. My other half recently got a Galaxy S8 on a 24 month contract at a total cost of ownership of only about £100 more than buying the phone alone. It's not exactly a chore to stick a reminder in the calendar to change contracts after 2 years.

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Mortgages, broadband, television, utility bills and just about every type of recurring payment has some provision for what happens when you complete your fixed term and not a single one of them puts the price down automatically at the end of it despite you having paid off the cost of your Sky box or router.

      In half of those cases there's no customer equipment to take account of, and the majority of the remainder its chickenfeed (like a fifteen quid router). Now consider that the majority of these deals have a big discount on the contract for new customers, and you'd realistically expect the cost to go up.

      For PVR there's more at stake, I'll grant you, but the case of mobile phones is totally different. The network operators are going out of their way to disguise the handset hire-purchase element.

      1. Oddlegs

        consider that the majority of these deals have a big discount on the contract for new customers, and you'd realistically expect the cost to go up

        So they offer an initial discount in the hope of making up any deficit once the discount expires. How is that different to mobile networks? Just swap the word 'discount' for 'handset subsidy'. If anything the mobile networks are more honest about it: at least they keep the price at the same agreed level.

  9. beerandbiscuits

    Let them pay

    I'm fed up with this attitude that people who can't be bothered to look after their own money should have it looked after by regulations instead. The companies concerned rely on making money out of the idiots so that those of us who care about how much we pay can pay less.

    I've been split ticketing advance fares on the railway for years, but now because some people can't be bothered the best deals are disappearing in favour of fares being "fair" for those who are just plain lazy. I change power and gas supplier regularly to the best deals, but now that is going the same way as the government says that people should automatically get better deals when they can't be arsed to do it themselves.

    If people are too thick to realise they could be paying less, that's their problem - leave them to it.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Let them pay

      I can understand why you would think that. But in the real world a large part of the population are no match for the misdirection and deviousness of large companies. Companies who pay lots of money to help them separate the public from theirs. Like complex tariffs that a harassed parent isn't going to have the time to work through even if they have the skills to work through.

      Simple example. Yesterday I took a repair plan warranty extension on a new dishwasher The manufacturer's warranty comes with an extra year free, though it is a limited warranty. There's another option of a 5 year extension, or a third option, to get a full cover annual policy, not directly from the manufacturer, using teh same agent as it happens which would cover the aspects that are uncovered by the warranty ( user negligence, that sort of thing) which costs a bit more than the 5 year policy over 5 years- because you have to pay the full amount even during the 2 year "free" cover option, and that sounds like a raw deal except the cost remains constant for the length of the policy so that it works our much cheaper once you get past a certain number of years.

      Now, how many are going to be able to work through that lot? And how many would take the manufacturer's offer which could then get very expensive from year 6 onwards.

      1. SkippyBing Silver badge

        Re: Let them pay

        a) If they don't charge the stupid people more, the clever people can't pay less.

        b) Who buys a manufacturer's warranty? The amount I've saved by not doing that more than covers the cost of replacing a dishwasher in the unlikely event I have to. Same goes for phone insurance.

        1. aks

          Re: Let them pay

          You're confusing manufacturer's warranty with third-party extended warranty via the shop.

          I've never paid for extra insurance but I know people who do and have successfully claimed on it during the period. I also know of people who *accidentally* find the device has stopped working when it's approaching the end of the warrenty or extended warrenty period.

          It depends on your attitude to insurance and how hard you are on your equipment.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Let them pay

            Well I'm not confusing them. I'm fully aware of the difference. I thought that was apparent. But I understand that a dishwasher is a device that can suffer issues not covered by manufacturer's warranty, such as a small solid item lodging in the filter. The calculation was more that the slightly higher cost of an unlimited life extended warranty compared to extending the manufacturer's warranty to five years full cover would be better value than than buying a similar policy in 5 years time when the 5 year policy ran expired..Even allowing for the fact that the insurers get an easier couple of years.

            But the point was that even in that relatively "simple example" there's enough complexity buried in competing schemes to hamper an ordinary user making the best choice.

        2. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Let them pay

          SkippyBing I do not believe you.

          The amount I've saved by not doing that more than covers the cost of replacing a dishwasher i..

          Cost of machine £550

          Cost of repair contract £36p/a (Or manufacturers 5 year extended £30 p/a)

          Cost of call out for repair £50 to £100 say, plus parts. ( My washer manufacturer it's £135 minimum - bloke down the road will do it for around £50).

          On those figures it would take 15 years for the cost of the warranty to exceed the cost of the machine if no repairs are needed. Just one repair of say £120 inc parts would extend that period to over 18 years.

          This is El Reg. We should all be able to do the maths.

          1. d3vy Silver badge

            Re: Let them pay

            Yeah... But another way to look at it is a £550 dishwasher is very likley to last more than five years without much more than a good clean of the filter every now and then (ours is approaching it's 8th year with no issues)

            In fact I can't remember the last time we had any white goods fail (other than the abused washing machine as my partner insists on washing colours seperatly... As in light blue load, dark blue load, white load etc..)

            So what you've done is decided that mitigating the very small risk of failure is worth £30 a year.. over five years. Do you have similar policies for all of your white goods... Because that could get quite expensive.

          2. SkippyBing Silver badge

            Re: Let them pay

            'SkippyBing I do not believe you.'

            Simple, I have never paid insurance for any white goods.

            I have never had to have any white goods replaced, or repaired in the eight years I've lived in my house*.

            Not having paid insurance of £30 p/a on each of a fridge/freezer, washing machine, and dishwasher over the eight years I've had them is £30 p/a x 3 x 8, or £720. Which would happily let me buy a new £200 dishwasher and have change. Hell even not paying £30 p/a on the dishwasher would now let me buy one of equivalent value.

            We should all be able to do maths, but apparently not all of us can do a decent risk analysis.

            *Unless you count me replacing a plastic button on the washing machine myself, total cost £15 and half an hour of my time. So hardly worth the £240 I would have paid in insurance by that point.

            1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: Let them pay

              I have never had to have any white goods replaced, or repaired in the eight years I've lived in my house

              Ditto for the 21 years at our current house. We did have to replace the fridge and freezer when we moved in (new fitted kitchen didn't have space for the single fridge/freezer unit we had so had to get separates. We bought cheapo Beko units and they still work, 21 years later..

              The cooker unit did go bang though - literally. The cooking element self-disassembled in a fairly dramatic fashion whcih meant a replacement. But I exclude that one since it was a black cooker, replaced by another black cooker :-)

            2. Terry 6 Silver badge

              Re: Let them pay

              Sorry, but that's a bit like ( though in a minor way) people who say they've smoked 300 ciggies a day for 80 years and never had a cough.

              Over the years we've had numerous call outs for various clogged outlets on dishwashers, blocked filters ( and coins lodged in them), broken handles, circuit boards that have mysteriously loosened, internal pipes that have come loose and flooded the kitchen and so on. This seems consistent with the friends and neighbours. I sincerely hope your good run of luck continues.

              1. d3vy Silver badge

                Re: Let them pay

                Seriously? Blocked outlets and filters requires a call out?

                I guess that answers the question "who buys extended warranties?" The people who can't figure out the most basic of domestic jobs.

                As for your flooded kitchen story.. would an extended warranty cover the replacement of all of the damaged floor and units or would that be a home insurance claim anyway?

                A bit of simple maths to work out the mean time between failure and the average cost of failure is enough to rule out extended warranties for me.

      2. aks

        Re: Let them pay

        Your dishwasher seller is using deliberate obfuscation by leaving you to think they are selling you 5 year support instead of the 3 you're actually receiving.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Let them pay

          That is was what I was saying. It was explicitly an example .

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Let them pay

      > I'm fed up with this attitude that people who can't be bothered to look after their own money should have it looked after by regulations instead.

      So next time you're down the pub, or on the tube, and someone pickpockets your wallet, I'm sure you'll loudly declare "Well, bless me for being so stupid as to not look after my own goods and property. That'll teach me and fair dos to the scallywag responsible. I for one won't be taking advantage of that unnecessary legislation that allows criminals to be locked up."

      1. Ledswinger Silver badge

        Re: Let them pay

        So next time you're down the pub, or on the tube, and someone pickpockets your wallet, I'm sure you'll loudly declare "Well, bless me for being so stupid as to not look after my own goods and property.

        I've seen some shite arguments in my time, but that totally, utterly irrelevant "example" is the worst I can recall seeing. No wonder you posted AC.

  10. nowster

    HP saucing

    I wonder how the mobile network companies have got round the legislation on consumer credit on what is, effectively, a hire purchase agreement.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: HP saucing

      If you look in the small print you will find that they are licensed credit brokers or are agents for a licensed approved credit broker.

      That's how...

  11. Rattus
    Holmes

    How does this differ from any Product as a service?

    The mobile phone industry pretty much from the beginning (of consumer phones at least) bundled in the phone with the contract, its only in the last generation of phones or so that most people haven't been desperate to replace the handset with something better^w^w^w^w shiny? Why is that? Could it be because mobile phone handsets are now a mature product - able to do what most people need and want them to do? In the last decade mobile phone operators have started to offer SIM only deals, where as the trend in most other industries is to try and run product as a service:

    We don't buy cars any more - we lease them

    We don't buy a bike - we rent them by the hour

    We don't buy music any more - spotyify and friends

    We don't buy software any more - we rent it as a service

    We don't buy servers any more - we rent space in the cloud

    Sure CAB are right to point out that purchasing a phone and airtime separately can be more cost effective, but if people are too damn lazey to work out the costs for themselves...

    One last thought though, if we could all work out the true Total Cost Of <foo> and put a real value on non-tangibles would we be outsourcing everything?

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: How does this differ from any Product as a service?

      We don't buy music any more

      Au contraire - I buy a fair amount (on CD) from a fine online Prog music store..

      (progrock.co.uk - I'm not affiliated with them but I do know the owner.. And more prople listening to Prog is a Good Thing(TM))

  12. DrXym Silver badge

    SIM free

    Buy a SIM free phone and a SIM only contract or PAYG. In return you get

    - A phone that works on any network and does not need to be unlocked.

    - A phone that doesn't have a bunch of network specific crapware / restrictions baked into it.

    - A bill that doesn't cost any more over all than the locked in-version with the benefit that you don't have to alter it when the contract term completes.

    - Gives you more choice of contract terms, plans and network operators

    Of course the easiest option to stop consumers being ripped off is if the government were to simply ban phone bundling - require the phone and the contract to be separate purchases. Failing that, to force operators to drop the plan to the equivalent SIM only contract once the phone is paid for.

  13. Bloodbeastterror

    There's a term for this...

    ..."theft by deception".

    They continue to take money for an item which has been fully paid off and is no longer their property. They take that money with the intention of permanently depriving its owner of it. Theft.

  14. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

    I agree that a single notification is pathetically insufficient. The companies should be required to convey the account automatically, with the possible exception of allowing the option to bank the extra payments instead. (For use either to shorten the next phone contract period, reduce the payment amount, or upgrade the next phone to a better model. Basically, act as a down payment.) I personally would consider it a foolish waste of money, but I certainly can't speak towards everybody's situation. It would at least stop the money from being outright stolen by the phone companies.

  15. Tom 35 Silver badge

    We used to have that crap in Canada too

    They had unadvertised BYOD plans, but they pushed the "free" phone. The CRTC cut max contracts to 2 years, required free phone unlocking, and split the phone payment from the service. You pay a "tab" each month for 2 years to pay for the phone, Once the 2 years is over the extra charge is gone.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Did this just last month

    My diary popped up a reminder message, "your phone purchase contract ends"

    I popped into the nearest outlet and swapped to a much lower data plan (with much more data)

    Sorted.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Did this just last month

      Should also be noted. "Locked" phones. This is a scandal. getting a phone unlocked after end of contract is a real nuisance. Made as difficult as possible by some companies.

      1. d3vy Silver badge

        Re: Did this just last month

        Just putting this out there.

        O2 never used to lock their phones (except a few models), not sure if they do now.

        Even with the models they did lock a quick call/live chat had them unlocked free of charge in minutes.

  17. Laughing Gravy

    O2 end of contract

    They called me up offering me a new phone which I declined as I was happy with my current phone so they halved the monthly bill and I continued with them.

  18. Andy Livingstone

    Tea Leafs

    Happened as described by the article with a mobile on a network starting with a V. Guess which business will never see a penny of my money ever again, no matter how many services they offer. You can fool some of the people all of the time; all of the people some of the time....................

    Next phone was bought for cash and a different service provider too. As for hearing from them when the contract was coming to an end? Forget that. Not a squeak. No sensible answers to letters either.

    If only service was up to the same high standard as the contracts are written to.

  19. Alien8n Silver badge

    EE don't allow you to downgrade

    EE actually don't allow you to downgrade your plan once the original contract is up. You can upgrade to a contract that costs the same, but if you don't want the upgrade and just want to switch to sim only they actually refuse to do it. The only solution is to cancel your contract and take out a new one.

    There's a reason all but one phone in the house is on O2, now I just need to persuade the wife that she really doesn't need to be on EE for her phone contract when it comes up again for renewal. Absolutely no idea why she has it in her head that EE is better. It's not as if she gets the cinema tickets anymore (and really, it wasn't worth it then for 2 trips a year).

    1. peachy001

      Re: EE don't allow you to downgrade

      They do allow it, I have done it 3 times now, no issues at all. That said, their pricing is very high. I like EE as it seems to work everywhere for me. Is O2 any good? EE allows me to never go over, something Vodafone seem unable to do. Honestly, mobile telecom providers need a good kick.

  20. SVV Silver badge

    examined over 700 phone tariffs

    This is consumer befuddlement masquerading as consumer choice. No sane way to make an informed choice in such a marketplace. Especially when probably 697 of them are bad choices.

  21. NBCanuck

    Mixed bag in Canada

    The three big telecoms (Bell, Rogers, Telus) all have the monthly cost of the phone hidden in their monthly plan, but we do have options. There are subsidiary companies (Koodo for Telus, Fido for Rogers) that do it, what I condider, the right way.

    Example: I am with Koodo and my bill clearly shows my plan fee and the amount of the phone cost sitting on my "tab". Each month I get charged $15 towards the tab and see the updated balance owing. The tabs are all set to have the phone paid off in 24 months. When that happens the tab charge just goes away.

    From an accounting perspective it would seem that breaking out the charges would be better for allocating revenue. The purpose of bundling them together seems to be to trick people into paying more than they should.

  22. hottuberrol

    The carriers are taking advantage of the same human inertia that means people stay with banks and insurance companies, even though newcomers are getting better deals. So you can make the same argument that these businesses should also automatically offer a better deal; or you can make the argument that if people are too lazy or cant be bothered, the higher rate is the price they pay for avoiding the hassle of changing. Or call it a "stupid tax". Whatever.

    What makes me vomit in my mouth is that the same companies who do this - presumably to a substantial block of customers who are vulnerable/can least afford it - also love to flog their social responsibility credentials every chance they get.

  23. csimon

    It's all very well making a song and dance about this but....the mobile operators are private companies whose main consideration is to make money and profits. Therefore if people are educated more about these contracts and then switch as soon as they can, the companies' profits will reduce and they'll find other ways to claw that back, i.e. raising SIM only prices, increasing costs of calls etc. Competition and market-forces don't work to keep prices down when they all decide to do the same thing. Like the energy companies and TV providers...switching all the time, forcing them to indicate when there are better offers, automatically putting customers on the lowest tariffs etc, it's all just a distraction. In many years of this envrionment, prices and bills should now be rock bottom due to all this switching and regulation, but it hasn't happened has it?

  24. andymbush

    O2 excuse

    When I complained to O2 that they hadn't changed me automatically to the lower sim only price at the end of the contract term as their CEO had been boasting about on TV, they claimed that as it had been bought through Carphone Warehouse they couldn't as CPW wouldn't give them me contact details!!! What utter crap, as they have my billing details and they run my phone number!!!

    After much fighting I managed to get "some" compensation, not the total overpayment!

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