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UK consumers overpaying £530 million a year for phones they already own

Virgin Media O2 has launched a new online calculator for consumers, helping them to quickly and easily check if they’ve overpaid for their smartphone – potentially saving them hundreds of pounds a year.

Armed with basic information such as their mobile network provider, current device, monthly bill amount and contract start date, individuals will be able to use the calculator to find out exactly how much they could have overpaid by in just a few minutes. The results will then give users the clear information they need to stop overpaying in the future by negotiating a new deal or moving provider.

The launch comes three months after Virgin Media O2 called on the industry to end what it’s calling the “Smartphone Swindle” – as three of the four UK mobile network operators (EE, Vodafone, and Three) continue to charge millions of customers for phones they already own.

This happens when operators bundle together costs for minutes, texts and data with the cost of the handset and provide customers little discount, if any, at the end of their contract.

Virgin Media O2 analysis estimates this is costing millions of consumers across the country over half a billion (£530m) every year with the average person worse off by more than £200 a year – enough to feed a household for two weeks.

With high inflation continuing to put pressure on household finances, three quarters (75%) of Brits are actively looking to save on their mobile phone bill yet over 9 in 10 (93%) were unaware they could be overpaying for their devices. After finding out they were at risk of paying over the odds for their handset, 8 in 10 (81%) reported feeling ripped off by their current provider.

The calculator helps to put the power back into consumer’s hands by outlining the potential impact on a person’s finances and then clearly outlining and the simple steps they can take to save hundreds of pounds on their mobile phone bill.

O2 was the first major operator to introduce split contracts more than a decade ago with O2 Refresh. These contracts clearly separate the cost of the device from the cost of the airtime (data, minutes and texts) so customers stop paying for their handset once it’s been paid off. The provider is also the only mobile network operator to automatically roll down its direct combined contract customers onto an airtime only plan, ensuring they never overpay for a phone they already own.

Gareth Turpin, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Media O2, said: “Charging consumers for phones they already own is just plain wrong – yet millions of us are being swindled by other operators that do just this.

“Since we first exposed this issue in May, consumers with other operators have spent more than £100m paying for phones they already own. Now, armed with our new easy to use overpayment calculator, we’re putting clear information into consumers hands, helping demystify bundled contracts and exposing just how costly they can be if no action is taken.

“The other operators could help stop this with three simple steps – provide split mobile plans; introduce automatic roll down to an airtime only plan; and provide clear information once a phone has been paid for. We hope they’ll join us in doing the right thing for their customers.”

CT Bureau

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