Are mobile phone companies ripping us off?

Mobile phone users are throwing away billions of pounds each year by paying for calls, texts or data they don’t use or in extra charges because their phone package doesn’t suit their needs.

Time to hang up on your deal?

A new study by consumer watchdog, Which?, has found that almost three-quarters (72%) of mobile phone users could save as much as £159 by switching to a contract that better suits their needs. Just over three quarters (77%) could save at least £50 a year.

Collectively, consumers are throwing away £5.42 billion every year.

However, fewer than half (42%) of those with a mobile contract think there will be a better value tariff on the market, while Ofcom research shows only half (48%) have ever switched supplier.

So, is it time mobile phone companies took the initiative and helped customers get the best deal?

Richard Lloyd, executive director at Which?, thinks so, he said: “Mobile phone companies must do more to help people get the best deal, making switching hassle free and ensuring that pricing is transparent.

He added: “If we don’t see mobile firms making voluntary improvements then we will ask the regulator Ofcom to step in.”

Time for change?

Following the study, Which? wants mobile phone companies to make a few simple changed that will not only make life easier for consumers but also increase competition.

The consumer watchdog is suggesting mobile phone companies unlock handsets automatically and free of charge so they can be used with any provider, and to notify customers of the best deals on the market at least a  month before their current tariff ends.

Another suggestion is that providers show the monthly cost of the handset separately from the service charge – something at least one provider, O2, is already doing.

One change that could make a real difference is if the provider gaining the new business takes responsibility for the switch – so no more having to get a PAC code.

Ofcom has responded to the report by saying its number one priority is to make sure communications work well for consumers.

An spokesman for the regulator said: “The UK mobile industry is one of the most competitive in Europe; recent Ofcom research showed average prices in the UK are the cheapest in Europe, 27 per cent less than the next cheapest country.

He added: “We want consumers to take advantage of competition in the market and shop around to ensure they choose the service which best meets their needs and budgets. To support them, we have prioritised work to make switching easier and to make sure consumers have clear, transparent information to help them make informed choices.”

What do you think? Is it time mobile providers made life easier for consumers? Or are things good the way they are? Let us know…

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