Mobile operators to cap bills for stolen handsets

3rd December 2013

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Consumers are to be better protected from huge bills run-up on stolen mobiles following a deal having been agreed between the government and four operators writes Philip Scott.

Culture secretary Maria Miller has secured buy-in from four mobile phone companies to place a cap on bills for stolen mobiles. The aim is to have the liability cap on handsets that are lost or stolen to be in place from spring next year.

Within the agreement the four companies – EE, Three, Virgin Media and Vodafone, have agreed to cap bills on phones which have been reported lost or stolen but also to stop unexpected mid-contract price rises by ensuring total transparency for consumers at the start of contracts and to help eliminate roaming charges by 2016. BT, Sky and Talk Talk have also signed up to the agreement.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller says: “We are ensuring hardworking families are not hit with shock bills through no fault of their own. Families can be left struggling if carefully planned budgets are being blown away by unexpected bills from a stolen mobile or a mid-contract price rise. This agreement with the telecoms companies will deliver real benefits to consumers and help ensure people are not hit with shock bills.”

But while Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at uSwitch.com, believes this is a big step in the right direction he assets there is still much more to be done. He says: “There are gaps in the culture secretary’s plan that need to be addressed, with one big mobile operator – O2 – not playing ball at the moment. Meanwhile an end to roaming would be a huge boost for mobile users jetting off abroad and worried about bills, while confirming Ofcom’s plans to enable people to exit contracts if prices go up will also help protect them financially.

“Unfortunately, the fact that networks have committed only to helping end roaming – as opposed to making a promise outright – gives them some wriggle room. But hopefully these plans will give consumers the protection they have long needed when it comes to mobile phone bills.”

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