Giffgaff today came out in support of our campaign to Unlock Better Mobile Deals.
The mobile provider already matches what we're calling for, such as selling mobiles unlocked and separating the cost of your handset from the service charge.
Mike Fairman, chief executive officer of giffgaff, said:
'It is great to hear that our approach is so closely aligned to the campaign by Which? to "unlock better mobile deals". We work with our members to ensure transparency and offer them a range of unlocked, contract free phones with the option to change their plan whenever they want.'
Giffgaff's support follows news last week that mobile providers across the US will automatically notify their customers as soon they are eligible to unlock thier handset. It’s now time for the UK’s mobile providers to follow suit.
All mobile operators in the US now have to unlock mobile phones and tablets at the end of your contract. In the UK, we want providers to follow the US’s lead and make switching easier by unlocking handsets automatically for free.
All mobile operators in the US now have to unlock mobile phones and tablets at the end of your contract.
In late 2013 mobile providers in the US agreed to a Consumer Code for Wireless Service which included rules around handset unlocking for customers on contracts, as well as Pay as You Go. This means once you’ve paid for your phone, you can use it on any network.
US mobile providers will need to automatically let you know when you are eligible to unlock and they have two days to complete the process once you’ve notified them.
Unlocking phones in the UK
However, in the UK the majority of providers still sell all of their handsets locked to their network. Just Three, Utility Warehouse and GiffGaff sell them automatically unlocked. When you can unlock them and how much it costs can vary hugely - some charge as much as £20.
Even when companies allow you to unlock your phone, some customers find themselves waiting far longer than promised. David told us:
‘I have spent a long time trying to get Vodafone to unlock a phone at end of contract, it actually took three attempts and five months.’
In the UK, we want providers to follow the US’s lead and make switching easier by unlocking handsets automatically for free. We also think they should tell you when your contract's about to end, give details of the best deals for you and separate the cost of the handset out from the rest of the tariff so it’s clear how much you are paying. You can help by signing our petition.
We're calling on Britain's biggest mobile phone operators to play fair with their customers one year after they promised to protect people facing massive bills if their phone is lost or stolen.
Major mobile phone companies agreed with the Government in December 2013 to introduce a liability limit to protect customers from excessive costs if their phone was used fraudulently when it was lost or stolen.
However, more than a year later, Vodafone, O2, EE and Virgin have failed to implement a limit. While Three's customer liability is capped, customers will still have to pay the first £100 if the loss or theft is reported within 24 hours.
Consumers need protection from fraud
We found that a third of people with a mobile phone contract would find it difficult to cope with an unexpected expense of £100, and six in 10 think they should not have to pay any of the costs incurred from fraudulent use when their phone is lost or stolen.
Our executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:
'People should not have to foot the bill if criminals run up expensive charges when their phone is lost or stolen. Mobile firms agreed to introduce a limit on excessive costs over a year ago but have still not implemented safeguards that really protect their customers.
Enough time to report loss or theft
We think mobile firms need to give customers 48 hours to report a lost or stolen phone. Our research found that a quarter of people said they have accidentally left their phone somewhere for a whole day or overnight in the last two years.
Which? Conversation user Mike was faced with a huge bill:
'My phone was stolen abroad earlier this year and despite being locked, the Sim was used to rack up over £2,000 in a few hours before I could report it stolen.'
Richard Lloyd added:
'Consumers are already losing out to the tune of more than £5bn by not being on the best mobile deals. With people fast losing trust in mobile operators, it's time for the industry to keep its promise and ensure that no one is faced with more unfair cost through no fault of their own.'
On the day we call on mobile providers to do more to help people get the best deal, Utility Warehouse has come out in full support.
Andrew Lindsay, Chief Executive Officer of Utility Warehouse, said:
'We are delighted to support this Which? campaign to unlock better mobile deals for customers. It includes a number of elements where we have led the industry for many years, such as clearly showing members the cost of our Price Plans separately from the cost of our phones, and not locking any of our handsets.
'We particularly welcome the goal to make it easier for customers to port their number, by eliminating the need for them to first obtain a PAC code from their existing supplier; no such barriers to switching exist in the home phone, broadband or energy markets.
'Going forward, we will write to members before they reach the end of their contract with information on alternative deals; if they do nothing, we’ll continue to automatically reduce their monthly charge once their contract has ended and they have paid for their handset.'
This is great news for everyone who has supported our Unlock Mobiles campaign so far, and especially to Utility Warehouse customers. Now we need the rest of the mobile industry to follow suit.
Our latest research has found that mobile customers are collectively losing out on billions of pounds a year by being on the wrong contract.
Seven in 10 mobile customers could save £159 a year by switching to a contract that better suits their needs. That means collectively they’re missing out on £5.42bn per year, either by paying for texts, minutes and data they don’t use or paying extra charges because their phone package is too small.
Our executive director Richard Lloyd said:
'It’s shocking that consumers are overpaying by billions of pounds for mobile phone contracts that just don’t suit their needs. Mobile phone companies must do more to help people get the best deal, making switching hassle free and ensuring that pricing is transparent.'
Switching mobile providers
Even when people know they’re on the wrong deal, they’re reluctant to switch due to the many barriers in the way. For example, mobile companies don’t always notify you when your contract’s about to end, they require 30 days’ notice if you want to switch and charge you to unlock handsets you’ve already paid for. And then there are all the different tariffs available.
We’re calling on mobile companies to notify you a month before your contracts ends with the best deals for you, show the monthly cost of the handset separately from the service charge and to unlock handsets for free.
We also want Ofcom to introduce a system where the provider gaining the new business is responsible for the switch. This would make switching provider much easier, and is similar to how it works with banks or energy companies.
Talking of the banks – unbelievably people trust them more than they trust mobile companies. If that's not reason enough for mobile firms to change, your support for our campaign will be. Join the more than 36,000 people who have supported our Unlock Better Mobile Deals campaign and sign our petition.
Ofcom today published a guide on how the major mobile providers lock and unlock phones.
Ofcom’s guide features tables on which providers lock mobile phones and how much it will cost you to unlock them. There is lots of variation in what different companies do, highlighting how confusing it can be for consumers.
Three Mobile and Giffgaff already sell all of their mobiles unlocked. However, others charge as much as £20 to get your phone unlocked – a process that can take as long as 28 days.
Our executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:
'Ofcom's research shows just what a minefield the unlocking policies of mobile phone firms are for consumers, with some companies charging up to £20 for the privilege.
"We want providers to either sell handsets unlocked or unlock them for free at the end of a contract, so people are able to switch to the best deal for them.'
We think all handsets should be unlocked for free – if you agree, make sure to sign our petition and share it with your friends.
Today we launch our campaign to Unlock Better Mobile Deals. You shouldn’t be trapped in contracts that aren’t right for you, and we need your help to get the message through to providers.
Only four in 10 people trust their mobile phone company to put them on the best deal at the end of their contract. That’s why we’re calling on providers to proactively contact you about when your contract's about to end, along with details of the best deals for your usage.
Unlock mobiles phones for free
Then we come to the issue of locked phones. Mobile companies can charge people as much as £20 to unlock their phones and will often only do so when asked, which can hold you back from switching providers.
Two thirds of mobile users think that’s unfair, including our supporter Pat:
'Two months after I left T-Mobile they refused to unlock my phone as I'm not an active customer. They should have automatically unlocked it when I left. I basically feel like I have been used.’
We want providers to unlock handsets for free when contracts end, and to sell pay-as-you-go handsets unlocked from the get go.
Send mobile companies a message
Our executive director Richard Lloyd said:
‘Mobile phones are an essential part of daily life for many people and consumers shouldn’t be locked into contracts that do not suit their usage.
‘We want to send a message to mobile phone companies that they should help customers get a better deal by alerting people that their contracts are about to end and by unlocking handsets for free.’
So if you’re sick of being locked into a mobile contract that’s not right for you, sign our petition and get your friends and family to take action too.
New proposals from the Government will protect consumers from huge bills run up on stolen mobiles.
Four mobile companies – EE, Three, Virgin Media and Vodafone – have agreed:
- To cap bills on a phone that has been reported lost or stolen - To stop unexpected mid-contract price rises by ensuring total transparency for consumers at the start of contracts - To help government in our aim to eliminate roaming charges by 2016
Culture Secretary Maria Miller said:
'We are ensuring hardworking families are not hit with shock bills through no fault of their own.
'Families can be left struggling if carefully planned budgets are being blown away by unexpected bills from a stolen mobile or a mid-contract price rise.
'This agreement with the telecoms companies will deliver real benefits to consumers and help ensure people are not hit with shock bills.'
It's about time
Responding to the proposals, our executive director Richard Lloyd said:
'It is about time mobile phone users got a fair deal so we welcome moves to cap victims' liability when their phone is stolen and we strongly urge all providers to sign up.
'We campaigned against price rises on fixed contracts so it's great news that people can switch without being stung by unfair exit fees. However, the Government must now also act on plans to scrap EU mobile roaming charges to end uncertainty about using mobiles overseas and cut off bill shocks.'
When your mobile phone starts to slow down and it generally begins to look a bit tired, you may be looking to upgrade to a new handset. But how do you make sure you’re getting the best out of your upgrade?
Our community tells us how locked phones have affected them.
Roel told us:
'EE/Orange have just asked me to pay £20.54 to unlock a PAYG phone. This is effectively a charge to prevent me from switching supplier.'
KC had a similar experience:
'Having been an Orange business customer for more than 10 years, being well out of contract and rarely changing phones I just asked about getting it unlocked so I can use a foreign SIM whilst abroad. Orange told me that there is a £20 charge for each phone and it takes 20 days. Apparently my loyal custom means nothing as there is no chance of waiving the charge.'
A recent YouGov survey for mobile operator Giffgaff finds that almost a third of mobile users aren’t sure if liberating your handset (from the network it’s initially locked to) is legal.
Almost all operators lock phones to their networks for various reasons. The most common excuse is that they’ve paid a large subsidy for the handset, and so lock the phone to their network to ensure they recoup their investment.