VMO2 points finger at other operators over smartphone billing

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UK operator VMO2 says that ‘bamboozled Brits don’t realise they’re being taken for a ride by opaque, confusing and out-dated mobile contracts.’

The operator commissioned a survey – conducted by Strand Partners and canvassing 5303 people in the UK – which threw up a slew of stats which are being used to prop up the argument that millions of UK customers (of operators other than itself) are ‘overpaying’ for devices through mobile contracts ‘because they don’t fully understand their mobile bills.’

VMO2 says combining airtime costs for minutes, texts and data with the cost of the handset can lead to consumers ultimately paying more than the value of their smartphone ‘because they receive little discount, if any, at the end of their contract yet continue to be charged the same amount.’

It says the other UK network operators – namechecking EE, Vodafone, and Three –  are ‘continuing to charge millions of customers for their handsets long after customers have finished paying for them’, and is quick to tack on the claim that VMO2 automatically rolls down its customers contracts once they’ve paid off their devices, putting them onto an airtime only plan.

93% of Brits are unaware they could be charged for mobile phones they’ve already paid for them through their contracts, the study claims, while 81% currently out of contract have been so for over three months, and 28% have taken no action despite their deal ending over a year prior. 55% reported not knowing exactly how much they pay for their handset each month, and 81% said they’d feel ripped off if they discovered they’d overpaid for their phone – unsurprisingly.

“Bamboozled Brits don’t realise they’re being taken for a ride by opaque, confusing and out-dated mobile contracts,” said Gareth Turpin, Chief Commercial Officer at VMO2. “Consumers are being kept in the dark about when they’ve paid for their phone so are spending millions of pounds buying their smartphones twice over.

“With millions of customers from other operators stuck on contracts that force them to overpay for their smartphone, all too often in the mistaken belief it will save them money, we’re sounding the alarm on this smartphone swindle. Customers that buy from Virgin Media O2 will never overpay for their phone with bills automatically reduced when they’ve paid for their device – it’s simply the right thing to do.”

Outside of anything illegal, claims that any firm is doing anything simply because it’s the right thing to do – especially when that information is used as fodder for some fairly transparent self-promotion – can be met with a raised eyebrow. On the other hand it is possible for something to be simultaneously convenient for a firm’s marketing department and true.

Phone contracts come in a variety of forms of course, and no doubt the other operators would have a somewhat different angle on all this – but on paper there’s certainly merit to the idea that billing should be as transparent as possible in all forms of consumer goods, so that point at least seems totally fair enough.


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