Mobile phone companies have come under fire for their ‘deplorable’ phone coverage whilst routinely overcharging loyal customers.
Figures emerged that as many as 6 million customers were being charged for phone handsets that had already been paid off.
Citizens Advice says three of the four biggest mobile phone providers, EE, Three and Vodaphone are the chief offenders and have called for them to stop the practice.
The providers were found to have not been informing customers that they have already met the cost of their devices at the end of their fixed term contract. At this point customers should be notified and only continue paying for calls, texts and data.
Matt Hancock, the government minster for digital, said: “It’s only right that mobile phone customers should be notified when they have paid off the price of the handset and future bills reflect this.“
Customers on average are paying an extra £22 a month if they do not take out a new contract. This figure rises to £38 a month on high end smart phones.
The elderly were found to be particularly vulnerable. 23% of over-65’s remained on a handset-inclusive deal for more than a year after the end of their fixed term contract.
Overall, 36% of customers failed to change after their deal.
This all comes after Lord Adonis, the chairman of the national infrastructure commission, lambasted the phone coverage in the UK as deplorable. These comments came after he had launched a public consultation into the UK’s infrastructure. He argued that mobile phone companies need to be pushed to increase investment in phone networks.
Ofcom, the phone industry regulator, agreed saying: “Mobile phone coverage must improve, and we also want to see more people right across the country being able to access faster broadband. Our rules mean virtually all UK premises must receive a 4G signal by the end of this year.”
Currently the UK’s 4G coverage and speeds lag behind other major countries such as Japan, Holland and USA. Lord Adonis warned that the UK risks falling further behind other countries in its next generation mobile and broadband connections unless action is taken urgently to increase its capacity now and for the future.
Nick Jeffrey, the Vodaphone UK boss, accused rivals EE and Three of holding back deploying 5G by challenging a planned auction of mobile airwaves.
The new 5G development is expected to bring much faster and more reliable connections that will boost internet connection.