The UK government announced plans to cap the mobile charges run up by thieves on stolen handsets to £100, but only if thefts are reported to the mobile operator and police within 24 hours.
The voluntary agreement has been endorsed by EE, 02, Three UK, Vodafone and MVNO Virgin Mobile have all signed up to a new Code of Practice outlined by government and industry think tank the Mobile Broadband Group (MBG).
Virgin Mobile said it would implement the new initiative on 1st July, Vodafone in the summer, 02 in September and EE in the ‘coming weeks’. Three said the plan has been in place since January.
The National Mobile Phone Crime Unit (NMPCU) estimates that 300,000 handsets are reported stolen to the UK police every year. Consumers contacting the UK Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) are estimated to have been collectively charged as much as £140,000 between April 2014 and February 2015 with some individuals penalised up to £23,000.
But whilst bill shock is a major bone of contention for UK consumers, it is by no means the only source of discontent. A report released by the CAB last week suggested that problems with mobile phones are now ranked fourth in its league table of common consumer issues, trailing only second hand cars, building repairs and energy, with people equally as likely to complain of faulty handsets, standards of service and contract exit terms and misleading sales practices.
Nor do the broader terms of the MGB Code of Practice appear to offer much reassurance for consumers fed up with hidden charges. It mandates only that operators provide clear and transparent pricing information on out of bundle, issue alerts warning users when they reach data limits, advise how data roaming can be turned off and provide barring functions to protect against inadvertent calls to premium rate voice services and protection against in-app purchases.