The revelation by Citizens Advice suggests that on an average, a UK phone user spends £15 extra every month on monthly tariffs that he could save to meet other expenses. The bureau used mystery shoppers to determine monthly tariff offered by sales staff and enquired about monthly tariffs for 250 minutes of calls, 250 texts and 200MB of monthly data.
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As per data collected by mystery shoppers, for the above package, EE contracts ranged from £10 to £50.82, Vodafone between £9.99 and £49.99, O2 between £11.35 to £46 and Three between £10 to £40.
Sales staff also recommended monthly packs with four times as many minutes than was needed by the customer. Since they combine monthly tariffs with the cost of handsets, it becomes difficult for the average consumer to work out the exact cost of the handset or if the monthly tariff is sensible, says the study.
“Mobile phone customers are being saddled with unnecessarily expensive contracts. While we didn’t find evidence of mis-selling, sales pitches were focussed overwhelmingly on phone brands which meant not enough attention was paid to tariffs - which are very important. The focus on handset brands mean people are essentially taking out loans on expensive phones - but without being able to work out the details of the loan or whether it’s value for money," said Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice.
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However, ISellMobile doesn't think so. It contends that the UK’s leading independent consumer service couldn’t find a single case of mis-selling even after surveying 350 mystery shops.
‘The assertions of overselling on tariffs and of £9.89 being the most suited price based on their criteria are flawed. Many retailers don’t have a single tariff at this price and of those that do, the low handset quality is unsuited to most customer needs. I’d invite Citizens Advice to get in touch with the full methodology and mystery shop data so we can examine how their conclusion was reached,’ it says.
This isn't the first time that the issue has been highlighted. Early last year, a study conducted by consumer group Which? revealed the statistic that also stated that up to 72 per cent users could save £159 a year had they been subscribed to the right contract based on their needs.
Speaking on the release of the report, Richard Lloyd, Executive Director of Which? said, "Mobile phone companies must do more to help people get the best deal, making switching hassle free and ensuring that pricing is transparent.” “If we don’t see mobile firms making voluntary improvements then we will ask the regulator Ofcom to step in.”
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However, Jack Courtez, Community Manager of ISellMobile.co.uk feels differently: 'Having watched hundreds of Mystery Shop videos myself, I’m yet to find a single example of what Citizens Advice’s research shows. The real story here is that after 350 mystery shops, the UK’s leading independent consumer service couldn’t find a single case of mis-selling. Instead, the press release shows a scrambling to push this ill-fitting research into a pre-conceived narrative.
The assertions of overselling on tariffs and of £9.89 being the most suited price based on their criteria are flawed. Many retailers don’t have a single tariff at this price and of those that do, the low handset quality is unsuited to most customer needs. I’d invite Citizens Advice to get in touch with the full methodology and mystery shop data so we can examine how their conclusion was reached.’