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Government action secures end to shock mobile bills

(By Shahid Qureshi – London) Mobile networks to offer £100 liability cap for consumers when huge bills run-up on stolen mobiles after Government action.

Major mobile networks have confirmed plans to introduce protection for consumers from huge bills run-up on stolen mobiles following Government action.

Under the voluntary agreement, five mobile networks – EE, O2, Three, Virgin Media and Vodafone – will protect around 27 million consumers on pay monthly contracts from being hit with shock bills through no fault of their own. They will all offer consumers a liability cap set at £100 when reported within 24 hours of being lost or stolen to the mobile network and police.

Ed Vaizey, Minister for the Digital Economy, said:

Protecting hardworking families from shock bills through no fault of their own has been a priority for this government. By working with the mobile operators, we have secured an agreement that will provide consumers with real benefits as well as offer peace of mind.

According to the National Mobile Phone Crime Unit (NMPCU) around 300,000 mobiles are reported stolen to the police each year in the UK.

Three has been the first mobile network to introduce this protection for its customers in January 2015. The other operators have now confirmed their plans:

  • EE will introduce in the coming weeks;
  • O2 will introduce the cap by September 2015;
  • Virgin will introduce the cap from 1 July 2015; and
  • Vodafone will introduce the cap this summer.

The protection comes as part of a new Code of Practice that all five mobile operators have signed up to. The code will also help protect consumers themselves from unexpectedly high bills and excessive costs from:

  • Out of bundles charges – by providing clear and transparent pricing information, alerts when they reach data bundle limits or the ability to monitor usage.
  • Roaming – providing information on how to turn off data roaming and avoid roaming charges.
  • Premium Rate Services and in-app purchases – provide barring function so consumers can protect against unauthorised or inadvertently calls to premium rate voice services, and protections against in-app purchases.

Kip Meek, Director of Public Policy at EE, said:

We advise customers to protect their phone as they would their wallet and make full use of the security features, including SIM lock. If a phone is lost or stolen, however, it is crucial customers let us know as soon as possible – we have a 24 hour hotline so customers can report loss or theft at any time.

An O2 spokesman said:

This agreement demonstrates our continued commitment to deliver usage safeguards and advice to our customers. O2 customers can already keep track of their usage though their MyO2 app and also benefit from O2’s overseas data cap. This new cap builds on the safety and security advice we already give to customers and should provide additional peace of mind if their phone goes missing.

Dave Dyson, Chief Executive of Three, said:

The liability cap is one of a series of measures we’ve pioneered to help ensure Three customers are protected and in control of their spending.

Annie Brooks, Director of Virgin Mobile, said:

This cross-industry agreement simplifies things for consumers by making the treatment of fraudulent use of lost or stolen phones consistent. It remains vital that people report their phone is lost or stolen as soon as possible.

Mark Bond, Customer Operations Director at Vodafone, said:

We will continue to do everything we can to protect customers from theft and believe our new cap will improve our customers’ experience at what can be a upsetting time. However, because it is very easy for criminals to rapidly build up high charges using stolen phones, we continue to encourage customers to report phones missing as soon as they can and make it as easy as possible for them to do so.

Hamish MacLeod, chair of the Mobile Broadband Group, said:

This announcement is a major new protection for customers and is in line with the industry’s longstanding commitment to help our customers protect their mobile and its contents.

We urge customers, though, to continue taking steps to look after their phone – always using a PIN, installing a tracker App, registering devices at www.immobilise.com and reporting a loss as soon as possible. All these steps taken to together will continue to limit the impact and inconvenience that customers suffer when mobiles are lost or stolen.

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