· 28% of mobile phone contract-holders unknowingly exceeded their monthly tariff multiple times last year*
· Consumers’ highest ‘surprise bill’ in the last year averaged £31 over their normal tariff
· Three quarters (74%) of contract-holders do not know the price of calls once they exceed their monthly tariff limit
· Two out of five ( 40%) people have their monthly budgets impacted by surprise costs
· Nearly half of mobile phone contract customers (47 per cent) would like to receive itemised paper bills at no extra cost
Over a quarter (28%) of people with a UK mobile phone contract, have been surprised in the last year by the cost of their bill, according to research by the Keep Me Posted campaign.
Those that unexpectedly went over their limit paid, on average, £31 extra when their monthly bill exceeded their agreed tariff. These additions to bill-payer’s budgets were mostly (21%) due to consumers not realising the costs of overseas calls. However, for 20% of people with a higher bill, the increased outlay was due to expensive customer service numbers or other types of helplines.
Two out of every five (40%) surprised monthly mobile phone payers said the unexpected expense was likely to have an impact on their monthly budget. A further 1 in 10 (10%) claimed that they are not able to keep to their usual monthly budget due to these fluctuations.
Mobile phone providers urged to play fair
65% of consumers feel that the inclusion of a free itemised paper bill is the basic right of paying customers, echoing the Keep Me Posted campaign’s belief that companies should be obligated to offer their customers the option of free non-digital communication. Almost half (47%) of all contract-holders would like to receive itemised paper bills as standard – a facility which is not available from most mobile phone providers.
The absence of itemised bills has perhaps led to a lack of awareness among consumers about the true cost of these additional charges. Three quarters (74%) of contract-holders do not know how much they are charged for calls per minute once they have exceeded their monthly tariff limit. Similarly, 77% do not know the cost of internet usage and downloads once exceeding their monthly limit.
Judith Donovan CBE, Chair, of the Keep Me Posted campaign, says: “Our research indicates consumers are exceeding their tariff on multiple occasions every year. This means additional cost very quickly begin to add up. Research has also found that people are far more likely to scrutinise and act on paper bills and as such, using them could lead to a reduction in the monthly mobile phone outgoings of UK households as people become more aware of what they’re being charged. The Keep Me Posted campaign has previously found** mobile phone companies to be the most likely to charge customers for papers bills; when you consider the strong likelihood of customers exceeding their monthly tariff, this seems highly unfair.”
The Keep Me Posted campaign is made up of businesses, charities and consumer interest groups who are campaigning for the consumer’s right to choose whether they receive postal bills and statements from their service providers, without additional cost or penalty. The campaign is being championed by partners including Mind, The National Consumer Federation, The National Federation of Occupational Pensioners, The National Association of Retired Police Officers, Post Office Financial Services, The Civil Service Pensioners Alliance, The National Pensioners Convention as well as UK postal operators Royal Mail, TNT Post and UK Mail.
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* Research conducted by Opinium Research via an online survey of 2,005 UK adults between 13 December and 16 December 2013.
** Research conducted by Opinium Research, May 2013