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Consumer Rights.

Updated: 4 Mar 2021

My phone is lost or stolen, what do I need to do?

Don't get charged for calls you didn't make. If you discover your phone has been lost or stolen, read our guide to make sure you're not left out of pocket. 
Which?Editorial team

My phone has been lost or stolen: to do immediately 

If your phone has been lost or stolen, you should do these things immediately:

  1. Text or call it - someone might have found it and you can organise to get it back.
  2. Block it - if you can't get hold of it, you should be able to lock it down by using Android Device Manager or Find my iPhone. You can also set up a lock screen with another contact number in case it's found.
  3. Locate it - you can also use these tools to locate it using GPS if it's turned on again.
  4. Report it - you should also report that it's been lost or stolen to the police so they can open a file. You'll need this for insurance purposes.
  5. Change your passwords - if you use mobile banking, email and social media on your phone, it's wise to change your passwords in case your accounts have been compromised.
  6. Tell your provider - if you’re on a contract, report it to your mobile phone provider immediately. EE, O2, Three, Virgin Media and Vodafone have signed up to a £100 'liability cap', which means you'll only be liable to pay for the first £100 of your phone bill if your phone is lost or stolen. But the cap is only activated if you report your phone as lost or stolen within 24 hours of going missing.

You may still be liable for any calls made using your phone until you report it lost or stolen if you don't report it within this timeline.

This will also be the case if someone else makes unauthorised international calls on your mobile.

Unauthorised calls: dispute your bill

If you’re charged for unauthorised calls you should try and negotiate with the network and see if they will reduce the bill.

Sometimes they'll reduce a bill for unauthorised calls as a gesture of goodwill but legally they don’t have to do this. They will treat each case on a case by case basis.

Your network won’t normally replace your handset free of charge and you’ll have to carry on paying your monthly line rental until the end of your contract. 

If your mobile phone is insured or covered by your home insurance policy you will be usually be able to claim for a new handset.

To dispute your bill, write a letter to your service provider. You should include:

  • Your name, address and a contact telephone number if you have one
  • Your customer account or reference number
  • Copies of the bill you are disputing
  • Why you are disputing the bill. Say which charges are not right
  • What has happened in your home over the billing period, for example, if you’re at work all day or if any children are away at college. This information may be useful to show there have been no changes in circumstances which would result in a higher bill
  • Ask them to respond to you within 14 days.

You can use our template letter for disputing a phone bill.

Send the letter to the service provider’s customer services department and keep a copy of your letter.

Key Information

Top tips

  • Report it  Contact your mobile provider as soon as you realise your phone isn't with you
  • Set a cap  Ask your provider to put a cap on the amount of charges that you run up outside of your tariff. You might also consider asking your network to bar calls to international and premium rate numbers
  • Set a pin  Set a pin on your handset to make it harder for anyone to use it. This won’t stop fraudsters from taking out the SIM card and using it in another phone so set up a pin on your SIM card as well
  • Keep a record  Make a note of the make and model of your phone along with the IMEI number. You can get your IMEI number by keying *#06# into your handset

Disputing a bill not paid on direct debit

If you don’t pay by direct debit you could include payment for the part of the bill which is not in dispute. This will show goodwill on your part and stop your provider from disconnecting you.  

Furthermore, your mobile phone provider should cease any collection activity whilst investigating a queried or disputed bill.

Late payment fees on disputed bills

It may be unreasonable for your service provider to charge you a late payment charge if you hold back an amount that you are disputing, though it depends what your terms and conditions say.

If the charges turn out to be for services you’ve used and the charges are detailed in your terms and conditions, you’ll probably have to pay them.

If you still dispute what you’ve been charged, or you think the charges are unfair or were not in your terms and conditions, you should make a formal complaint and follow the procedure as set out above.

Resolving a dispute with your provider

If you’re not happy with the way in which your complaint has been handled you can take it to one of two dispute resolution schemes – Ombudsman Services: Communications or Cisas.

These are independent complaints schemes that will consider a complaint about a mobile phone service provider if you haven’t been able to resolve your problem directly.

But you must give your mobile provider a chance to resolve your complaint first. If it’s not resolved within eight weeks you should request a ‘deadlock’ letter.

You will then be able to take your mobile complaint to the Ombudsman Services: Communications or Cisas (whichever one your mobile service provider belongs to).

The Ombudsman Services: Communications and Cisas deal only with complaints about mobile service providers (the company you pay for your mobile service) and not about other mobile phone retailers that ‘resell’ mobile contracts but don’t operate their own service (for example, Carphone Warehouse).

The power of dispute resolution

Both schemes can make your mobile phone service provider do the following:

  • apologise and/or explain its actions
  • give you a product or service
  • pay you up to £5,000 compensation for any loss you can prove you have suffered

These dispute resolution services can also recommend a mobile service provider changes its policies or procedures.

You can also contact Ofcom, the telecoms regulator. It cannot help with your individual problem, but it’s good to let it know if you have a major problem with a company.

Ofcom monitors all consumer issues and can investigate a company if it finds serious ongoing problems with a particular provider.