EE, Vodafone and Three ‘over-charge Brits £500m’ for paid-off phones – study

Mobile networks in the UK are continuing to over-charge Brits for handsets they’ve already paid-off over the course of their contacts, according to Citizens Advice.

According to the advocacy group, four million Brits have been affected by the practice of continuing to charge the same monthly tariff after the phone subsidy element has been repaid. That’s costing Brits a staggering £500m a year, according to Citizens Advice.

Vodafone, Three and EE are all guilty of the practice, the study alleges. The scheme is costing affected users an average of £22 a month more than they should be paying. If you have a 256GB iPhone 8 handset, the potential monthly over-charge could rise as high as £46 a month, if you don’t take action at the end of their contract term.

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Citizens Advice (via BBC) is advising mobile users to check their bill and terms to see if switching to a SIM-only deal can save them money, or whether they’re entitled to a brand new phone.

36% of all mobile customers in the UK aren’t doing that, while 23% of the over 65s just stay on the same deal when their contract ends.

“We need action,” said Gillian Guy of Citizens Advice. “Other companies have already stopped doing this so we’re looking for these three major providers to follow suit.

“Consumers should check their phone bills to see if they can save money with a SIM-only contract or upgrade to a new phone.”

Split bills?

Ofcom has already proposed networks send customers a one-time notification via text when the contract is coming to an end. However, Citizens Advice wants that to go further. It says the companies in question should split the cost of the phone and the tariff on the user’s bill.

O2 already does that (and has been since 2013). Its marketing chief Nina Bibby says: “Charging for phones that have already been paid off does nothing but damage customer trust and the reputation of the industry.”

Meanwhile, EE says that the idea is “overly simplistic” despite O2 seeming to handle it easily enough.

It said in a statement: “We agree that customers shouldn’t overpay, but we believe that this is best achieved through clear communications with consumers about their options.”

The network does notify customers when their contract is about to end, but the study shows the overcharging practice remains rampant.

Should the networks do more to ensure consumers are getting the best deal? Or is the onus on us to ensure we keep track of our monthly tariffs? Let us know @TrustedReviews on Twitter.