Millions of customers get 'bill shock' as data costs add up.
Ofcom has unveiled a plan to help contract customers avoid being hit with surprise high phone bills. The proposal follows a major review into the causes of “bill shock” and looks at what mobile providers could do to help customers control their spending.
The watchdog will now work with the mobile industry on a series of measures to tackle key problem areas. Ofcom has also called on the networks to educate customers on how to avoid expensive bills.
Bob Warner, chairman of the Communications Consumer Panel, said: “As people become increasingly reliant on their mobiles, ‘bill shock’ is becoming a serious problem for consumers.
“As well as the immediate financial impact of unexpected costs, there is also a risk that people become overly cautious of using their phones for data in case they incur extra charges - so aren't benefitting fully from the opportunities that are available.”
Ofcom’s review found there are three main causes of bill shock:
1. Downloading - Primarily while travelling outside Europe, but also when using data in the UK. For example, customers using smartphones to access the internet without realising how much data they are using.
2. Making calls - Exceeding inclusive allowances or calling numbers not covered by free minutes.
3. Lost or stolen phones - Only affects a small number of customers, but the level of financial harm can be substantial.
Ofcom believes mobile providers could do more to help customers control the amount they spend on their phones. It has called for a series of “opt-in” measures, such as tariffs that allow customers to set their own financial caps or receive alerts about usage.
Finally, the watchdog has approached the networks on the issue of high bills resulting from lost or stolen mobiles. Currently, if a contract customer’s phone is stolen and thieves run up an enormous bill, the victim can be liable for the full amount.