Ofcom Clamps Down on Operators Over-Charging on Mobile Phone Contracts

News   •   Mar 14, 2012 11:30 GMT

The UK’s regulating watchdog, Ofcom, has announced that mobile operators need to put maximum caps on mobile phone usage. This is due to story after story of mobile phones being stolen and used to rack up enormous bills which the contract owner must pay. Customers have been calling for this for many years and only now Ofcom has decided that enough is enough and that the operators need  to put efforts in place to stop the “bill shock” when the monthly bill comes in after losing or having their phone stolen.

The mobile operators have until this summer to place caps on over-usage, as most people lose or have their phone stolen while on holiday abroad and the roaming charges are why there are bills over thousands of pounds. One example of a large bill run up by thieves was John Potgieter from London, who was handed a £9,000 bill after his phone was stolen in South Africa. Johan had to postpone his wedding as he was forced to pay the bill. He’s not the only one, a woman that was on holiday in Cambodia was being hounded by her mobile operator for a £3,000 bill.

It seems that many people are unsure of the liability of who is responsible for the bill that is accrued after a phone is stolen or lost. More often than not, it’s too late before a huge bill is run up before people even realise that their phone is missing. Until the phone is reported as stolen, the contract owner will be landed the bill. This can be even more difficult with those that are on holiday as the police report might not be accepted by the mobile phone company nor even created depending on which country the mobile phone owner is visiting.

The introduction of maximum liability has finally been asked for by Ofcom, which should be placed automatically with every mobile phone user unless they ask for it to be removed. Those that use their mobile phone heavily are still at risk, but they can place a limit on their usage. Until now, the customer has always been liable but Ofcom states that the mobile phone operator will have to offer a voluntary plan for over-usage or face enforcement proceedings. This heavy-handedness is the only incentive that will force operators to take note and not profit off the unfortunate events of their customers having their mobile phone stolen.

The watchdog has also looked into the data charges that operators slap on holidaymakers. EU regulations state that there is should be a £42 maximum where the phone would be limited for those travelling in the EU. The operators should also send an alert to customers that reach 80% of their usage. After research showed that 1.4 million mobile phone users received higher than normal bills in the last six months, Ofcom’s clamp down is welcomed, albeit a few years late.

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