Operators agree to £100 cap on charges for stolen mobiles

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EE, O2, Vodafone, Three and Virgin sign up to “liability cap” to protect customers from massive bills

UK mobile operators have agreed to implement a £100 liability cap to protect customers who have had their mobile phone stolen from facing massive bills.

EE, O2, Vodafone, Three and Virgin Mobile have signed up to a measure to the cap, which will limit the amount customers can be charged if they have their device taken by thieves.

The cap will become active when a phone is reported lost or stolen within 24 hours of it going missing and has been secured by the department for culture, media and sport.

Minister for the digital economy Ed Vaizey said: “By working with the mobile operators, we have secured an agreement that will provide consumers with real benefits as well as offer peace of mind.”

According to the Citizens Advice Bureau, customers regularly contact them after receiving massive bills following the theft of their phones, with some as high as £23,000.

The CAB estimates that between April last year and February this year, users have lost as much as £140,000 because of bills on stolen mobile phones.

The new measures also include introducing clear and transparent pricing information and alerts for out of bundle charges and information on how to turn off data roaming to avoid roaming charges.

The operators will also be required to provide barring functions so consumers can protect against unauthorised access to premium rate services.

300,000 phones stolen a year

According to figures from the National Mobile Phone Crime Unit, around 300,000 mobile phones are reported stolen to the UK police every year.

Three were the first network to introduce the measures, with a cap announced in January. CEO Dave Dyson said: “The liability cap is one of a series of measures we’ve pioneered to help ensure Three customers are protected and in control of their spending.”

EE will introduce the cap “in the coming weeks”, with director of public policy Kip Meek saying: “We advise customers to protect their phone as they would their wallet and make full use of the security features, including SIM lock. If a phone is lost or stolen, however, it is crucial customers let us know as soon as possible – we have a 24 hour hotline so customers can report loss or theft at any time.”

O2 promised to introduce the measures by September. An O2 spokesperson said: “This agreement demonstrates our continued commitment to deliver usage safeguards and advice to our customers. O2 customers can already keep track of their usage though their MyO2 app and also benefit from O2’s overseas data cap.

“This new cap builds on the safety and security advice we already give to customers and should provide additional peace of mind if their phone goes missing.”

Vodafone said it will introduce the cap in the summer. Vodafone customer operations director Mark Bond said: “We will continue to do everything we can to protect customers from theft and believe our new cap will improve our customers’ experience at what can be a upsetting time.

“However, because it is very easy for criminals to rapidly build up high charges using stolen phones, we continue to encourage customers to report phones missing as soon as they can and make it as easy as possible for them to do so.”

Virgin Mobile promised the measures will be in place by July 1. Virgin Mobile director Annie Brooks said: “This cross-industry agreement simplifies things for consumers by making the treatment of fraudulent use of lost or stolen phones consistent. It remains vital that people report their phone is lost or stolen as soon as possible.”

Tesco Mobile chief marketing officer Simon Groves said that the move was a good one for the mobile industry. Tesco already implements a £50 cap for stolen phones.

“It is important that the mobile industry does whatever we can to protect customers from fraudulent activity,” Groves said. “Tesco Mobile has been doing this for years for stolen phones and we cap all our charges at £50 as standard in these instances.

“More importantly we also encourage our customers to cap their contracts at a price that suits them using Capped Contracts, meaning they will never have to suffer from a nasty bill shock, whether at home or abroad”.

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