Mobile users should not have to foot bill for fraud

Which? is ​calling on​ Britain’s biggest mobile phone operators ​​to play fair with their customers ​one year after they promised to protect people ​facing massive bills if their phone is lost or stolen.

Major mobile phone companies agreed with the Government in December 2013 to introduce a liability limit to protect customers from excessive costs if their phone was used fraudulently when it was lost or stolen. However, more than a year later, Vodafone, O2,​ EE​ and Virgin Media Mobile have failed to ​implement a limit. While Three’s customer liability is capped, customers will still have to pay the first £100 if the loss or theft is reported within 24 hours.

We found that a third (32%) of people with a mobile phone contract would find it difficult to cope with an unexpected expense of £100, and six in 10 (59%) think they should not have to pay any of the costs incurred from fraudulent use when their phone is lost or stolen.

​​Mobile firms should also give consumers a reasonable length of time to report a lost or stolen phone as we found a quarter (23%) of people sa​id​ they have accidently left their phone somewhere for a whole day or overnight in the last two years.

Which? is urging mobile phone network operators to protect their customers and act now to:

  • Not charge consumers anything if mobiles phones are reported as lost or stolen within 48 hours;
  • Make it easier for consumers to report a loss or theft; and
  • Agree and implement an industry-wide plan to protect consumers from shock bills.

This call follows Which?’s campaign to Unlock Better Mobile Deals as our latest research found mobile customers are collectively losing out on £5.42 billion per year.

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.”

Notes to editors

1.    Populus, on behalf of Which?, interviewed 2089 UK adults online between 23rd and 25th January 2015. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of the UK population. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

2.    More than 46,000 people have signed up to our Unlock Better Mobile Deals. To support the campaign visit www.which.co.uk/unlockmobiles

3.    Vodafone, O2, Virgin Media Mobile and EE are expected to agree an approach to liability caps within days but this could well be worse than the original government proposal of a £50 cap and limited to an even shorter time period than Three’s. ​

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