Plea to limit stolen mobile fees
A consumer group has called on mobile phone providers to do more to protect customers who face huge bills if their handset is lost or stolen.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced in December 2013 that four companies - Three, EE, Vodafone and Virgin Media Mobile - had agreed to introduce a liability limit to protect customers from excessive bills if their phone is used fraudulently.
But Which? said more than a year on, Vodafone, EE and Virgin Media Mobile as well as O2 have not implemented a limit.
Three has introduced a cap but customers still have to pay the first £100 if the loss or theft is reported within 24 hours and all the charges if it is reported missing beyond that time.
The watchdog found a third (32%) of those with a mobile phone contract would find it difficult to cope with an unexpected expense of £100, and 59% thought they should not have to pay any of the costs incurred from fraudulent use when their phone is lost or stolen.
Which? said mobile companies should also give consumers a reasonable length of time to report a lost or stolen phone after finding 23% of people had accidentally left their phone somewhere for a whole day or overnight in the last two years.
The consumer group is urging operators to stop charging customers anything if phones are reported lost or stolen within 48 hours, make it easier for consumers to report a loss or theft and implement an industry-wide plan to protect consumers from shock bills.
Which? 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.
"Consumers are already losing out to the tune of more than £5 billion 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."
:: Populus surveyed 2,089 adults online between January 23-25.