Operators Agree To Fairer Mobile Charges, But O2 Holds Out

mobile phone roaming charge europe SIM card © anaken2012 Shutterstock

Government plans end to roaming, stolen mobile liability cap and end to mid-contract price rises, but O2 says it can’t commit

The government plans to introduce a cap on the amount mobile phone users are liable for if their phone is reported as lost or stolen from next year, along with commitments to improve bill transparency and eliminate roaming charges from 2016.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) says it is working with regulator Ofcom and the mobile industry to implement its plans, which it says will improve consumer protection, as part of its Telecoms Consumer Action Plan first announced in September.

“We want to ensure that consumers enjoy the best experience possible – including when things go wrong as they sometimes do,” explains the DCMS. “Ofcom and the industry already offer guidance and ways to manage the level of expenditure. But we want to work together to do more.”

Consumer protection

British money change cheap £5 £2 £1 © J and S Photography ShutterstockThree, EE, Virgin Media and Vodafone have all agreed to the cap in principle and will work with Ofcom and the government to determine the limit and the conditions with a view to applying the limit from spring next year. It is thought the limit could be similar to the £50 currently applied to credit cards.

The DCMS also says that the aforementioned operators have agreed to work with the government to improve bill transparency, especially with regards to mid-contract price rises. Ofcom has already published guidelines which – from January 2014 – should allow mobile users to exit their contract without penalty should their monthly payment increase or services be reduced.

Finally, the government says there is no place for roaming in a “true European single market” and will work with the industry to eliminate roaming within the EU by 2016, while ensuring operators do not reduce their investments in networks.

O2 resistance

However one operator that hasn’t signed up to the proposals is O2, which says it has concerns that have not yet been addressed.

“We have a track record of delivering for consumers and we welcome any measures that improve transparency, clarity and fairness in consumer contracts,” a company spokesperson tells TechWeekEurope. “However one area of the Government’s announcement relates to Ofcom’s recently published guidance on ‘price rises in fixed term contracts’.

“We need clarity on what the guidance means for us and our customers before we can sign up to all the commitments referred to by Government and we have been unable to obtain such clarity from Government or Ofcom at the time of this publication.”

Last week, Labour published an eight-point plan to combat what it calls the “great phone rip off” as both the government and the opposition look to win votes by creating policies to deal with the rising cost of utilities and communications.

Are you up to speed on 4G? Try our quiz!