Firms Introduce Cap on Charges for Stolen Phones

Five mobile phone operators have introduced a ìliability capî for consumers who have their device stolen, meaning users will be protected from incurring massive charges if they are victim of such a theft.

Vodafone, O2, Three, Virgin Media and EE have pledged themselves to the cap, which has been designated at £100. In fact, the operator ëThreeí introduced this measure in January- the other four operators are now following their lead. The cap will be triggered once the device is reported as lost or stolen- this has to be done within 24 hours of it going missing.

In the past, a customer who had been victim of a mobile phone theft had often also had to pay charges running up into thousands due to usage of the device by the criminals.

After the announcement of the deal, the Citizens Advice Bureau stated that the introduction of the cap would offer ìmuch-needed reliefî to those customers who are unfortunately exploited by mobile phone fraudsters and criminals. The institution went on to inform that they have regularly heard from customers that have had to pay bills worth five figures. The highest debt reached £23,000.

The Citizens Advice Bureau also reported that between April 2014 and February of this year, customers had lost up to £140,000 because of the bills from activity on stolen mobiles.

Gillian Guy, who is chief executive at the Citizens Advice Bureau, commented: ìVictims of phone crime should not be paying excessive bills run up by thieves. A cap on bills from stolen mobile phones will come as much-needed relief to consumers targeted by phone fraudsters.î

She went on to say: ìWe will be keeping a close eye on the phone providersí caps to see if they do really protect phone crime victims from the worst bills.î

Further to this, the minister for the digital economy, Ed Vaizey, commented on the Governmentís part in introducing this protection. He stated: ìBy working with the mobile operators, we have secured an agreement that will provide consumers with real benefits as well as offer peace of mind.î

Alongside the introduction of a cap, the five operators have committed to a reformed code of practice. As part of the code they have to provide coherent and lucid pricing information whilst also informing their consumers speedily if they reach the data limits on their account.

Furthermore, these operators are obligated to provide advice on how to circumvent roaming costs and also they have to set up a barring service that protects their customers against unapproved or unintentional app buys and calls to high-cost services.

The consumer group ëWhich?í has criticized the industry and these operators for not introducing more significant legislation. They argue that the mobile phone companies should not charge their customers anything if a phone is reported lost or stolen within a 48 hour period. Richard Lloyd, the executive director at ëWhich?í commented that the measure ìfalls short of expectations.î

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