After exposing that mobile phone networks are overcharging customers by as much as £38 a month, Citizens Advice are now urging phone users to stay on top off their contract to avoid being ripped off.
The independent advice charity has revealed that customers have the legal right to stay with the provider on the same fixed term deal, change the contract or leave or move to a new provider when a contact ends.
However, despite these options many people are being financially stung by Vodafone, EE and Three who continue being charged the same rates despite their contact ending and the handset being paid off.
As a result customers are paying an average £22 extra a month, with some customers paying as much as £38 a month for premium handsets like the iPhone 7 128/256GB, the Galaxy S8 and the Xperia XZ Premium.
O2 was found to be the only provider out of the four main networks that does not continue the same rate after a handset was been paid off.
‘Providers could make it much easier for consumers’
Although the responsibility to check a contract lies with the customer, mobile phone providers are “exploiting their customers” by continuing rates for a product that has already been paid for according to Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice.
Guy said: “Some of the largest mobile phone providers are routinely overcharging their loyal customers.
“Mobile phones are now an essential part of modern life, but the way that the cost of handsets are hidden within some mobile phone contracts gives phone providers a way to exploit their customers.
“It is clearly unfair that some phone providers are charging loyal customers for handsets that they have already paid for. It’s especially concerning that older customers are more likely to be stung by this sharp practice.”
Citizens Advice now wants all providers to reduce their customers’ bills when they stay in the same contract past the end of a fixed deal, to reflect the cost of the handset being paid for.
Guy added: “Phone providers must now make sure that any customers staying in a contract past the end of a fixed deal have their monthly bill reduced to reflect the cost of the handset.
“Providers could make it much easier for consumers to compare prices by separating out the cost of handsets from the cost of services like data and minutes for all contracts, that way it would be much clearer what they’re paying for.
“It’s important that Ofcom and the government are prepared to protect consumers by making providers take these steps, if they do not do so themselves.”