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Consumers get more protection from shock bills on stolen mobiles

Monday, March 23rd 2015 by Ellen Branagh

Mobile users will be protected from huge bills run up on stolen phones, thanks to an agreement between major operators and the government.

EE, O2, Three, Virgin Media and Vodafone have all signed a voluntary agreement to offer consumers a £100 ‘liability cap’ – a limit set on a certain party's liability – for their pay monthly phone when they report it lost or stolen to the mobile network and police within 24 hours.

The deal will protect 27m consumers on pay monthly contracts from being hit with huge bills that are not their doing.

According to the National Mobile Phone Crime Unit (NMPCU) around 300,000 mobiles are reported stolen to the police each year in the UK.

Digital minster Ed Vaizey said: “Protecting hardworking families from shock bills through no fault of their own has been a priority for this government.

“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.”

Three has already introduced this protection for its customers in January this year. It will be followed by EE in the coming weeks and Virgin from July 1.

Vodafone will introduce the cap this summer, and O2 has said it plans to bring it in by September 2015.

The protection is part of a new Code of Practice that all five mobile operators have signed up to.

The code will also help protect consumers from unexpectedly high bills and excessive costs from things like out of bundles charges, roaming, and premium rate services and in-app purchases.

'Major new protection'

Operators will provide clear and transparent pricing information, and alerts when people reach data bundle limits, or give them the ability to monitor usage.

Consumers will also get information on how to turn off data roaming and avoid roaming charges; and a barring function will protect users against unauthorised or inadvertent calls to premium rate voice services, and protect against in-app purchases.

The operators have all spoken of the benefits of the code and how it will benefit consumers.

Kip Meek, director of Public Policy at EE, said the firm advises customers to protect their phone as they would their wallet and make full use of the security features, including SIM lock and said it was crucial that customers report losses or thefts as soon as possible.

Three CEO Dave Dyson said the liability cap is one of a series of measures it had pioneered to help ensure customers are protected and in control of their spending.

Annie Brooks, director of Virgin Mobile, said: “This cross-industry agreement simplifies things for consumers by making the treatment of fraudulent use of lost or stolen phones consistent.”

She said it remained vital that people report their phone is lost or stolen as soon as possible, and Mark Bond, customer operations director at Vodafone, also urged people to report phones missing as soon as they can to prevent criminals building up high charges.

Hamish MacLeod, chair of the Mobile Broadband Group, described the announcement as a “major new protection for customers” and said it would help customers protect their mobile and its contents.

He added: “We urge customers, though, to continue taking steps to look after their phone – always using a PIN, installing a tracker App, registering devices at www.immobilise.com and reporting a loss as soon as possible.

“All these steps taken to together will continue to limit the impact and inconvenience that customers suffer when mobiles are lost or stolen.”

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