EE has announced that it will be dropping all fees to unlock mobile phones.
Last year the mobile supplier responded to our Unlock Mobiles campaign by reducing the charge for unlocking phones by 50% to £8.99.
More than 75,000 of you have backed our campaign to get mobile phones unlocked for free, and now EE has decided to go whole hog.
This summer EE’s pay monthly customers will be able to request to unlock their phone for free at the end of the contract. And pay-as-you-go customers will be able to unlock their phone free at any time.
An EE spokesperson told us:
‘We believe that this policy provides the best balance of meeting our customers’ needs, whilst providing an important defence against device theft and fraud that remains a constant issue for the mobile industry.’
It would be even better if EE unlocked your phone automatically when your contract ends, but this is a big step forward considering the company used to charge customers more than £20.
EE’s announcement follows the Government’s Budget commitment to consult on ending the practice of locking phones after your contract has ended. George Osborne said that the Government welcomes voluntary commitments from mobile providers (so, well done to EE!), but added that it’s read to introduce legislation if necessary.
If you’re happy then please let EE know by retweeting our tweet below.
George Osborne has announced action on mobile phone locking in today’s Budget.
The Chancellor confirmed in the Budget 2016 that the Government will consult on ending the practice of locking phones after your contract has ended. And it has committed to consulting on this this very year.
He added that the Government welcomes voluntary commitments from mobile phone providers, but said that it is ready to introduce legislation if necessary.
You shouldn’t have to pay to unlock a phone you already own, so we’re pleased to see that the Government is consulting on this. However, there needs to be no delay in bringing in the changes. If you agree with us, then please sign our petition.
Automatic unlocking of customers’ handsets at the end of their contracts will be an expectation of mobile firms, the Government has announced today.
This announcement comes as part of the Government's Better Deal plan, setting out steps to increase competition and improve living standards. The Government will consult in 2016 on ending the practice of mobile handset locking for customers outside of any initial contract period.
Consumers face costs of up to £20 to unlock their phones, with an estimated £48 million spent every year. As part of our campaign to Unlock Better Mobile Deals, we’ve been calling for providers to unlock handsets for free.
Commenting on today’s announcement, our executive director, Richard Lloyd said:
‘Hidden charges, confusing contracts, and complicated switching are still too common in markets we all rely on. By making it easier for consumers to save time and money, these reforms are good for people, businesses and growth in the economy.’
Ofcom has begun consulting on proposals to make it easier for you to switch mobile phone deals.
Ofcom's consultation seeks views on a number of switching options, such as placing the responsibility for the switch entirely on your new mobile provider. This is exactly what we've been calling for with our Unlock Better Mobile Deals campaign, which is now supported by more than 70,000 people.
Our executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:
'It’s good to see Ofcom taking long awaited steps to make switching mobile companies easier.'
Ofcom's research shows that only 6% of people on a mobile phone contract switched providers last year. The whole process should be simplified by removing the need for you to contact your existing provider to switch. We want to see this measure implemented swiftly to bring switching in the mobile sector in line with how it already works with landline and broadband contracts.
Richard Lloyd adds:
'Phone companies should also alert customers when their contracts are about to end and unlock handsets for free to promote switching and competition.'
If you agree with Richard and our campaign, make sure to sign our petition if you haven't already!
Unlike customers on other mobile networks, Vodafone, EE and Three customers are charged one bundled price for their handset, minutes, texts and data.
Here’s what these three major mobile networks had to say in response to our research:
A spokesman for Vodafone said:
'We offer competitive pricing on both 12 and 24 month contracts which often include a handset as part of the bundle. We’re clear with our customers on when their contract ends – through customer services, their online account and the My Vodafone app.
'We also proactively contact the vast majority of pay monthly customers before their contract ends to discuss the best possible bundle for their future needs.
'At the end of the contractual period customers are able to upgrade and take a new handset or move their contract to a SIM Only plan.'
A spokesperson for EE said:
‘Separating phone and tariff doesn’t always represent the best deal for consumers and can sometimes result in them paying more. EE customers have the flexibility to choose the tariff and upfront phone cost that is right for them, often with better value than tariffs that are separated.’
A Three spokesperson told us:
‘We offer a range of plans which include a handset with different data and call allowances to suit customers’ needs. At the end of their contract, customers can upgrade to a new handset with a new plan, switch to a SIM-only plan where they pay only for airtime and not a handset or move to another operator.
‘We already unlock devices for free and we are looking at developing new contracts which will split out the cost of the handset and the airtime for customers.’
We’re calling on all mobile providers to separate out the cost of the handset so you don’t continue paying for it after your contract ends. So it’s great to hear that Three is looking to offer contracts where these costs are separate. You can help us convince Vodafone and EE to do the same by signing our petition.
Mobile phone owners are collectively shelling out an extra £355m per year for handsets they’ve already paid for.
Our research found that nearly half of mobile owners don’t switch immediately when their contract comes to an end. And since most contracts don't separate the cost of the handset from calls, texts and data, you’ll find yourself paying over the odds for a phone you’ve already paid off.
Collectively we’re overpaying by a total of £355m a year - an average of an extra £92 each.
O2, Virgin Media, Tesco Mobile and Utility Warehouse have tariffs where the handset and airtime costs are separate, while giffgaff has never bundled the handset in. Whereas customers on Vodafone, EE and Three still continue to be charged one bundled price.
For example, a contract with O2 Refresh for an iPhone 6 costs £49 a month for 5GB of data and unlimited minutes and texts. Of this, O2’s clear that the handset is £25, meaning you’ll only pay £24 per month when the contract ends.
On a similar plan with Vodafone (4GB of data and unlimited minutes and texts) it costs £48.50 a month – but that price doesn’t change once you’ve come to the end of your contract. If you don’t switch or change your contract, you’ll keep paying for the phone you’ve already paid off.
Our executive director Richard Lloyd said:
‘Consumers are being misled and as a result are collectively paying millions of pounds each year for a phone they have paid off.’
We’re calling on all mobile providers to separate out the cost of the handset so you don’t continue paying for it after your contract comes to an end. You shouldn’t be handing over money for nothing. If you agree, please sign our petition today.
The Government has reached a voluntary agreement with five mobile operators - EE, O2, Three, Virgin Media and Vodafone - to set a cap of £100 if you report your mobile phone lost or stolen within 24 hours.
Three has already introduced the cap, with EE planning to introduce the within the coming weeks. O2, Virgin Media and Vodafone will follow with the new measures later this year.
Although the cap will limit the impact of shock mobile bills due to fraudulent charges, it falls short of our expectations.
Our executive director Richard Lloyd comments:
‘This long overdue cap proposed by mobile operators falls short of expectations and won't do enough to protect consumers facing unfair bills run up by criminals when their phone is lost or stolen.’
We found that a third of mobile users would find it difficult to cope with an unexpected expense of £100, and six in 10 think they shouldn’t have to pay any of the costs incurred from fraudulent use.
We agree. You shouldn’t have to pay anything for fraudulent activity on your phone if you report your mobile lost or stolen within 48 hours. We also think there should be an industry-wide plan to protect consumers from shock bills.
Richard Lloyd adds:
‘This is yet another example of why consumers are fast losing trust in mobile operators, with people already overpaying by billions of pounds for mobile phone contracts that just don’t suit their needs.’
Ofcom has announced an overarching review of the UK’s digital communication markets to ensure they’re meeting the needs of consumers.
The review will cover the broadband, mobile and landline markets – essential services with low levels of consumer trust and satisfaction. Even the banks are trusted more than mobile phone providers, for example.
With three quarters of people on the wrong mobile contract and nearly half unhappy with their broadband speed, it’s the right time for change.
Our executive director, Richard Lloyd, comments:
‘The telecoms market is changing rapidly so it’s right for Ofcom to review whether it’s working for consumers, especially at a time when high profile mergers could result in less competition.’
More than 55,000 of you have supported our campaign to unlock better mobile deals. Your actions have helped show Ofcom that it’s time to review this essential market. The regulator must now set out how it will deliver a better deal for consumers.
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 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.
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.
Join the conversation - If mobile phones can be unlocked in the US - why not in the UK?
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.
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.
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.'
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.
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.
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.
Mobile phone customers should benefit from fair and transparent billing along with affordable and reliable service, according to Consumers International.
Read the full story here.
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
'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.'
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.'
Culture Secretary Maria Miller has promised to work with mobile phone networks to protect consumers from unfair charges and price hikes.
The comment came after mobile phone companies met with officials of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Following a Government summit with mobile providers, Maria Miller said:
'We want to help hard-working families by ensuring they are not hit with unexpected charges and rising bills.
'We have a highly competitive telecoms market and that competition has helped reduce prices over the last decade.
'There remain clear issues that cause people to be hit with costs and price hikes that are not fair and we are working with industry to deal with them.'
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