The Phone Co-op mobile review 2021
By Aaron Howdle | Tuesday, May 4th 2021
The Phone Co-op is a different proposition to most other mobile providers. It is run as a member-owned, consumer co-operative, with an ethical approach to supply chain, investment and the environment. Members get a democratic voice in how the company is run, and also receive dividends.
The Phone Co-op was founded in 1998. Initially targeting organisations and businesses, it licensed the Co-operative brand name in 2012, later teaming up with the Co-operative Group to offer mobile phone deals. In 2014 it became the first UK stockist of Fairphone, the world's first 'ethical smartphone'. The Phone Co-op doesn't have its own network infrastructure, being an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator). It runs on the EE network, meaning good coverage across the UK.
Tariffs and plans
The Phone Co-op offers five pay-monthly plans that come in a range of offers using the EE 4G network. All its plans come with unlimited minutes and texts, with data allowances ranging from 1GB to 100GB. There is no unlimited data plan available. All the Phone Coop’s plans come on 30-day rolling contracts meaning you can cancel or change your plan at any time.
The Phone Co-op also offers Pay-As-You-Go, with a choice of bundles or classic PAYG whereby you simply top up and just pay for the calls, texts and data you use. There are over 20 PAYG bundles to choose from, all with varying amounts of minutes, texts and data, and each bundle lasts for 30 days, after which time you can choose to buy another. Bear in mind the Phone Co-op does not offer rollover data so you will lose your allowance at the end of the 30 days. Customers choosing classic pay-as-you-go, will pay 8p per minute, 4p per text and 10p per MB.
Phone and device range
If you are looking for the latest iPhone X or Samsung Galaxy S9 then you will be disappointed with The Phone Co-op's range as it only offers a rather small and specialist range of handsets. In fact there are no iPhones or Samsungs on offer at all.
Fairphone also uses a modular component system, allowing users to replace broken parts easily. So if your screen breaks, you simply order a new one and snap it into place. The same applies for other parts such as the headphone jack and camera. In theory, this helps the phone last longer, causing less waste. You can even easily replace the battery when needed, which is a big plus in our book.
Other than the Fairphone, the Phone Co-op offers a small selection of affordable Doro smartphones, two smartphones from Emporia, which makes handsets that are compatible with hearing aids, and a basic Emporia with large buttons and easy-to-read text.
Value for money
When dealing with a Co-operative enterprise whose unique selling point is its ethics, value for money can take a very different shape. After all, what is the cost of improving the life of someone elsewhere in the world, or having less impact on the environment? Your decision on the value of the Phone Co-op's deals will therefore come down to how highly you value these enterprises.
In simple money terms, it will be slightly more expensive to use Phone Co-op in most cases. However if helping others and making a positive impact on the world is your bag, then it will be worth it.
The Phone Co-op has an active Live Chat service for customers to get in touch quickly and easily, or you can call 01608 434000 to speak to an advisor in person. Lines are open 9am-5pm Monday to Friday only – there is no service at the weekend. Alternatively you can get in touch via email on hello@thephonecoop, or via Twitter or Facebook.
In terms of customer satisfaction with the service, the Phone Co-op does not qualify for Ofcom’s regular report into customer satisfaction, so it is difficult to gauge the quality of customer service. However, 93% of EE customers expressed satisfaction with their service overall in Ofcom’s recent survey.
In contrast, on reviews website Trustpilot the Phone Co-op currently rates just 1.9 stars out of 5. However, just bear in mind this is for all Phone Co-op services, not just mobile. Plus, it’s worth remembering that customers who have had a bad experience are always far more likely to write a review than customers who are happy with their experience.
When it comes to network coverage, EE claims to have the best 4G coverage in the UK, reaching over 99% of the population. Before you sign up however, you can check what coverage is like in your area by visiting the coverage checker on the EE website. Bear in mind though, that even if 5G is available where you are, you won’t be able to benefit from it with a Phone Co-op deal as the provider only uses EE’s 4G signal.
According to industry regulator Ofcom’s latest survey, 84% of EE customers are satisfied with the signal they receive, and only 2% had a reason to complain about the service in general.
It is still important to always check local coverage however as population coverage means just that – people able to access the signal, not geographical coverage. A large percentage of the population lives in towns and cities, which generally have great network coverage, but if you live in a rural area, you may not be covered.
The Phone Co-op is in a unique position when it comes to the ethically-minded consumer. It's a highly laudable approach to put concerns about ethics and the environment at the centre of its business model. The Phone Co-op also offers some specialist handsets which may well appeal to the hard of hearing or to older customers looking for a device that is easier to use than many of the more popular smartphones.
If you want your money to do more than enrich shareholders, then The Phone Co-op is the one for you. On the other hand, if you are on a budget and simply want the best value for money, then it's probably better to look elsewhere.