New business vows to put an end to “rip off” hidden charges and outdated 24-month contracts
A group of former Phones 4u executives have launched a new online retail business designed to give customers more control over their handsets and airtime contracts and ensure they remain on the correct tariff at all times.
The new business, Unshackled. com went live last week and claims to put an end to “rip off” hidden charges which are commonplace in rival contracts by selling airtime (SIM only) and handsets separately.
It’s being headed up by John Whittle, who was director of trading at the fallen retailer, alongside former John Morris and Steven Lloyd, who were chief financial officer and head of investor relations respectively when Phones 4u collapsed in September 2014. Phones 4u founder John Caudwell is also said to be an ‘Angel Investor’ although details are unknown at this time.
Airtime plus phone
Whittle, who is CEO at the Manchester-based retailer, said: “We’re on a mission to change the way people buy their phones. Ultimately, the 24-month contract is something which is a thing of the past. We know, from first- hand experience, that customers are frustrated by that level of control the operators have over that contract. We want to bring an end to that control.
“A better way of purchasing your phone is by splitting the purchase in two – the airtime and the phone. That allows customers to save money on both sides, and gives them a greater degree of flexibility.”
Unshackled has partnered with 15 providers including all four major operators (EE, O2, Vodafone and Three), plus a number of MVNOs for the service.
It has also partnered up with personal finance firm Zopa, allowing customers buying their device to spread the costs, while Brightstar will provide stock and manage trade ins.
Whittle said a key to Unshackled.com’s strategy will be its “Mobile Watch”, a free online service which automatically checks for better deals on other networks on behalf of the customer,alerting them via email.
Whittle also sees the value of the proposition across the B2B channel, and said he had received an approach from someone within the industry about setting up a business-focused arm, although he ruled out any move in the immediate future and refused to share details.
“We’ve been approached to have a look at the B2B market, but it isn’t in our short-term plans. It is something potentially we’ll focus on in the longer term, though.”