Mobile phone companies are not doing enough to prevent the "shockingly high" bills some customers face after making calls abroad, using the internet or having their phone stolen, an advisory service has warned.
The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) has called on mobile phone companies, like Vodafone and O2, to do more to protect customers from huge bills.
The advisory service said 28,000 issues relating to mobile phones and contracts were reported last year and a further 102,000 people sought help online, with complaints including shock bills, phantom charges and billing errors.
One woman who contacted the CAB has been slapped with a £2,000 bill after using wi-fi in a hotel lobby in the USA.
Other customers were forced to take out loans to pay bills - one complainant had to borrow £408 for his bank after a billing error meant he was overcharged for his mobile phone service.
Ofcom has announced measures to make the cost of calling businesses and services more transparent for consumers from June 2015.
- Clearer pricing for all numbers starting 08, 09 and 118.
- Cost of service numbers will be broken down into an ‘access charge’ to phone company, plus a ‘service charge’ to the company or organisation.
- The service charge for premium rate (09) numbers will be capped.
- Consumer calls to Freephone (0800, 0808 and 116) numbers which are generally free from landlines, will become free from mobile phones too.
- Confusion around 0845 numbers - which are sometimes tied to the cost of a geographic call - will be addressed.
Charges for telephone calls to business and services will be made simpler from 2015 with clearer pricing for all numbers starting 08, 09 and 118, Ofcom has announced.
Under new plans, 080 freephone numbers will be free from mobiles as well as landlines.
Ofcom said the measures are designed to tackle "consumer confusion" over non-geographic’ service numbers that have a range of uses, from finding out information to banking, directory enquiry and entertainment services.
Its aim is to make prices more transparent, improve competition, restore consumer confidence in non-geographic service numbers and increase their usage.
Labour criticised the Government's new measures to cap mobile phone bills for victims of handset theft as "not strong enough protection" for consumers, because it relies on voluntary participation from phone companies.
By relying on a voluntary approach they are not giving strong enough protection to consumers, who too often face phone rip-offs.
Labour has clear plans that the Government should implement now.
Caps on charges run up on stolen phones should be fixed at £50.The companies should also be required to give people warnings when reaching limits on texts and phone call and concrete steps should be taken on the recycling of handsets.
The measures, set to be introduced next spring, include a break-off clause if call prices rise mid-contract, but Ms Goodman said this will "fail" most people with phone contracts.
"Existing fixed contracts should be fixed – introducing ‘fixed means fixed’ from January will fail most mobile users."
Culture Secretary Maria Miller said the Government's new deal with telecoms providers will help to prevent families with mobile phones being hit with surprise price rises mid-contract.
We are ensuring hard-working families are not hit with shock bills through no fault of their own.
Families can be left struggling if carefully planned budgets are be 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.
Here are details of the new measures to protect mobile phone users from "shock bills", which are expected to be enforced from next spring
- A new liability cap - expected to be £50 - on mobiles that are lost or stolen
- A right to be informed if prices rise mid-contract
- A right to break off the contract without penalty if they don't want to pay higher rates
- BT, Sky and TalkTalk have agreed to support Government efforts to eliminate EU roaming charges by 2016.
Mobile phone users whose handsets are stolen will no longer be hit with "shock bills" when a new cap on the maximum value of calls they will be expected to pay for comes into force next spring.
The Government has struck the deal with four major mobile companies - EE, Three, Virgin Media and Vodafone, as well as communications providers BT, Sky and TalkTalk.
It marks the latest move by ministers to help households struggling to pay their bills, following accusations by Labour leader Ed Miliband that the UK is suffering a "cost of living crisis".
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