British mobile phone users are getting hit by additional charges, and are still paying for their phone after their fixed contract is up.
That’s according to research from Citizens Advice, which found that three of the four largest UK network operators continued to charge for a handset, even after the cost had been covered.
The organization found that Vodafone, EE and Three customers didn’t get their monthly bill reduced, meaning on average they were paying £22 a month more than they had to.
The picture is even worse for buyers of high-end phones like the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S8, with Citizens Advice observing that owners of these phones were paying an extra £38 a month. And looking to the future, there could be bad news ahead for buyers of the iPhone 8 – users of this Apple handset could find themselves being overcharged a whopping £46 a month after their fixed contract period is up.
The research also found that older customers were hit hardest – Citizens Advice discovered that 23% of over-65s overpaid for more than a year, compared with 13% of people under 65.
The organization is calling on mobile operators to automatically reduce phone bills when the contract period is up; it also wants operators to separate the cost of the handset from the cost of the network in phone bills.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Some of the largest mobile phone providers are routinely overcharging their loyal customers. Mobile phones are now an essential part of modern life, but the way that the cost of handsets are hidden within some mobile phone contracts gives phone providers a way to exploit their customers.
“Providers could make it much easier for consumers to compare prices by separating out the cost of handsets from the cost of services like data and minutes for all contracts, that way it would be much clearer what they’re paying for. It’s important that Ofcom and the government are prepared to protect consumers by making providers take these steps, if they do not do so themselves.”