The Cutting Room – Issue 413


Channel 4 reporter Antony Barnett played consumer hero, revealing how misled consumers pay too much for their mobile bills; are duped by commission-hungry salespeople into taking on more expensive contracts; have fallen for dodgy cashback deals, and are subject to heavily inflated charges for services like talking and texting.

Sure, Barnett has a job to do, and we don’t much want to rubbish a fellow journalist. Also, the show was pitched to consumers, at home sipping tea in their armchairs; not mobile insiders, for whom the show had little news.

But, we were a little disappointed to be honest. It could have been much harder hitting.
And the points Barnett made were, in some cases, badly put. Some of the customers of Dial-a-Mobile, interviewed by Barnett in Birmingham, came across as naive to say the least. How can you take out seven phones on Orange Panther tariffs, and then play dumb when you’re informed you’re obliged to see out an 18-month contract?

For a start, most things these days are done on contract. You take out a 25-year mortgage; you take out a five-year loan, repayable with interest every month; you take out a two-year repayment loan on a new car.

Plus, Dial-a-Mobile, if nothing else, made a point of making the fine print clear, especially the contract length. Especially towards the end.

And what about this rubbish about text messaging? The kids were all right. They’re pretty good value, all told. How you can constructively compare data prices on text messages with data prices on downloading images from the Hubble Telescope is unclear to me.

So, it’s similar? Who cares. The point is it costs less to send a text message than it does to buy a first class stamp for a letter. And it doesn’t take three days to arrive – if your mum gets your postcode right. Although, to be honest, it would probably be quicker for my mum to send a letter to the wrong address than to send an SMS. “New fangled S&M”; I can hear her now.

Anyway, the rest was okay. The stuff on roaming was clear, if old hat. The networks made themselves look ridiculous by turning their backs on the reporter like he was Dennis Pennis, and running away.

The worst case scenario from such a public searchlight on the industry is the networks take exception to all the crap thrown at them, blame it on the indirect channel and accelerate their move to take things direct.