Press Association –
The watchdog Which? has called for an end to “confusing” mobile phone charges that it claims leave consumers paying more than they should.
The consumer group wants simpler tariffs with handset and service charges separated, and the handset costs automatically dropped once paid off to prevent customers overpaying.
It has called on mobile providers and the Government to introduce easier switching, without waiting for possible new EU regulations, and for sim cards to be unlocked for free once the handset is paid off.
And it said consumers should be allowed to set caps on their bills to give them control over how much they spend and prevent “bill shock”.
It has also called for penalty-free exits from contracts after six months,
Which? said it was calling on ministers “to get tough with an industry that has been allowed to confuse consumers for too long”.
Research by the watchdog found that 39% of consumers had resorted to haggling to get a better mobile phone deal, with 86% of them able to negotiate a lower price or extras like a new phone or free minutes.
A separate Which? survey found that a quarter (25%) had tried to leave a landline, mobile, broadband or pay TV contract early in the last five years but just 70% of them were successful and 42% of mobile phone customers had to pay a penalty charge.
Ofcom recently announced that consumers can leave their mobile phone contract without paying exit fees if their provider increases the price.
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: “The Government must get tough with telecoms providers and help put millions of consumers, who are struggling with the cost of living, in control of their mobile bills.
“We found that mobile providers are offering much better deals to customers who are savvy enough to haggle, which begs the question why they can’t offer more transparent, competitive deals to everyone all the time.
“It needs to be much easier and free for people to switch and leave their contract.”
:: Which? surveyed 765 members of the public about their mobile phone haggling between September 27 and October 3.
Populus surveyed 2,093 UK adults online between October 11-13.