back to article Brits won't have to pay for thieves' enormous mobe bills any more

Blighty mobile users are going to be protected from thieves running up huge bills under a new agreement between the government and service providers. EE, Three, Virgin Media and Vodafone have all agreed to put a cap on the amount that customers will have to pay on phones that have been reported lost or stolen. The cap is …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Kaltern

    Warning: Political sideswipe inside

    <Blatant political whine>

    '"Families can be left struggling if carefully planned budgets are being blown away by unexpected bills from a stolen mobile or a mid-contract price rise," said Culture Secretary Maria Miller', "We are ensuring hardworking families are not hit with shock bills through no fault of their own."

    Glad to hear it. But I presume they won't be so lucky with rising energy bills tho?

    </Blatant political whine>

  2. Timo

    so everyone will get to pay then

    If the family won't have to pay, then the mobile company will eat it then, right?

    Hmm, only then the mobile operator will spread those costs across ALL customers. You don't believe for a second that they're going to pay it themselves do you?

    Also an unintended consequence - if someone loses their phone there will not be much incentive to call in to report it stolen, and thieves will be able to rack up more calls (driving up the stolen phone costs to the operator, that we'll all pay indirectly.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: so everyone will get to pay then

      " if someone loses their phone there will not be much incentive to call in to report it stolen,"

      Errr why?

      Customer: Hello, I'm not paying the bill, my phone stolen!

      Operator; Can I have the crime reference number?

      Customer; Oh shit. Err no honest it was.

      Carrier. Oh we believe and so we are disabling your SIM and bricking your phone. Enjoy.

      Customer: Huh, my phones just gone dead?

      What a stupid statement

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: so everyone will get to pay then

      Did you even read the article?

      "... put a cap on the amount that customers will have to pay on phones that have been reported lost or stolen."

      It does the exact opposite of what you claim. It gives them an incentive to report their phone stolen/lost because if they don't then they will get a huge bill.

      > You don't believe for a second that they're going to pay it themselves do you?

      Why would they? They are not a charity they are a business. They will calculate how much it costs them to provide the service (including the cost of stolen phones), add their mark-up and then charge the customer that.

      Every business does it. Buy anything from M&S, Boots, Asda, your corner shop, and part of what you pay is for lost, damaged and stolen stock.

    3. jpb421

      Re: so everyone will get to pay then

      They don't make it clear where the liability lies prior to the 'phone being reported stolen, that is how far back you can claim calls were made by the thief rather than the owner.

      With credit cards the cc companies, because they are liable, are hyper-sensitive. Quite a few times I've had my card bounce because the banks anti-fraud software considers a purchase to be unusual. I then have to ring them up, get it cleared and then do the purchase all over again.

      If the mobile 'phone operators take the same approach they'll randomly block "unusual" calls until the caller can convince them that it is not a stolen 'phone!

      The simplest way to limit liability on mobile 'phones is to use pay-as-you-go. If someone nicks my 'phone (unlikely as it is about 12 years old so no self-respecting thief would want it) then they'll only be able to have £20 to £30 worth of calls.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: so everyone will get to pay then

      Maybe they'll put some effort into fraud prevention.

      When my phone was stolen thieves managed to run up a 850 quid bill before I had a chance to recover it - comprised of calls to "hot" countries - on a phone that had an average usage of 20 quid.

      My fault and I coughed up - as far as Orange were concerned it was just regular profit to them.

      I've since worked on fraud prevention measures to counter the crime I was a victim of - companies should be compelled to introduce similar safeguards. Maybe now they will

    5. ManxPower

      Re: so everyone will get to pay then

      Because usage costs of stolen phones are shifted from the customer to the service provider, maybe one of the mobile companies will realize reducing losses from theft will improve their profit margin. Currently theft actually improves service providers profits, that is not a good model.

  3. dervheid


    What part of "no mid contract price rises" do you NOT fucking understand?


    Price rise = material change in contract terms = customer may cancel.

    It's not difficult.

    1. Swarthy

      Re: Clarity?

      That part caught me off-guard as well. I thought the whole point of any contract was to set terms of the service, including price, for the duration of the contract. Any material change, be it service level (bandwidth allowance, minutes, etc) or price would warrant a new contract. This could be arranged so that the end-of-contract date remained fixed, or it could start a new term, but both parties have to agree to a modification if the contract.

      I guess the phone companies went to the Darth Vader school of contract negotiations: "I am altering the deal, pray I don't alter it any further."

      1. Longrod_von_Hugendong

        Re: Clarity?

        Yes, a contract set outs the exact terms, and one of the terms YOU agree to is them changing the terms as they see fit to during the run of the contract.

        Contracts are good for the operator, not for the consumer. PERIOD.

        1. MrDamage

          Re: Clarity? @ Longrod_von_Hugendong

          Clauses like that make contracts null and void under the very same contract law that is used to try and uphold them.

          A contract is for a fixed and agreed upon terms and conditions. A customer cannot legally make an informed choice based on conditions which are subject to change at the whim of the service provider. Should the service provider seek to make any changes, the customer then has a get out clause which can enable them to terminate their side of the contract. Any effort by the service provider to hit the customer with "early exit fees" can also be judged to be illegal due to the fact the terms and conditions changed from the initial, agreed upon contract.

          Ive used our Ombudsman service a few times to remind pesky service providers that the T&Cs in their contracts in no way trump Consumer Laws.

    2. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: Clarity?

      At the moment it is considered OK to have contractual price rises that are linked to an inflation index. That might be the bit they don't understand.

    3. Tom 35

      Re: Clarity?

      I expect they sold a bunch of cheap plans with a "we can raise the price" in the contract. They plan to jack up the price so they don't want to agree unless it will only apply to new contracts.

      1. Tom 13

        Re: They plan to jack up the price

        Maybe, maybe not.

        Maybe they calculated their margins thin on the basis that they can raise the prices to match actual cost increases thereby minimizing what customers are charged over the life of the contract. This new agreement undermines that legitimate business model.

        The earlier poster was correct: the headline may feel good, but it is wrong. All this does is spread the cost of stolen phones over the entire customer base. Yes, retail establishments do something similar. But in the case of a retail establishment, they have a fair amount of control over the security of goods in their stores. That's not true of cell phones where the physical security is all up to the phone owner.

  4. Soruk

    > The four mobe providers have also agreed not to hike prices in the middle of a contract

    Vodafone's current radio advert for their £26/month "Red" service states they can put the price up mid-contract...

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Vodafone's current radio advert for their £26/month "Red" service states they can put the price up mid-contract..."

      It'd be interesting to challenge that as being legally "unfair" as the only variables which can be changed are at the whim of and to the benefit of the provider. There are no balancing terms the customer can choose to vary to their own benefit.

  5. Lee D Silver badge

    Not sure how it would be legal to charge me for phone calls made on a stolen handset, or change my tariff mid-contract without getting my approval, anyway.

    Sure, we can argue. We'll argue it in court, eh? Where it's tantamount to charging me for, say, someone using my bank card if it's stolen, or for coasting along London doinking my Oyster card.

    I get that you don't want to pay for tons of stuff only for people to say it was stolen, but there's a limit to what you can do, you know. If I didn't authorise those transactions, and I reported my phone as stolen and asked you to block it, just try and charge me for them.

    A lot of this is basically saying "What's always been illegal but you had to fight for justice on, is now automatically uncontested" rather than anything else.

    P.S. Had Three try to charge me for a contract for a new phone that went missing in the post. They'd send it second-class parcel with no tracking. They tried to charge me for it. They tried to hold me to the contract (the contract that was IN THE PARCEL). They took payments off Direct Debit for it for two months. They told *ME* to chase the Post Office to find out where the parcel had gone. I cancelled the Direct Debit, had it marked as a payment for an unfulfilled service, the bank refunded all my money within seconds. Three then threatened to sue me for breach of contract.

    I wrote back a snotty letter, and ignored their harassing phone calls (literally every ten minutes until I threatened legal action if they should ever ring me again - "We can't do that, sir, it's an automated system". Well, your automated system is going to see you in court. I'd advise that you don't hang up until you've got the guy in charge of your automated system to stop it ringing me, because I'll take you to court on that as well... funnily never got another call).

    A month later, they "decided" to refund all my money, "allow" me to keep the Direct Debit money and graciously "waive" the contract termination fees.

    Considering they were trying to hold me on a contract I hadn't signed, after *I'd* phoned up to report the phone + contract missing, after I'd *DEMANDED* they block the IMEI immediately (didn't know what it was, didn't have the damn phone!), on hardware and service that never reached my door and I was never able to use, after they already had my money, you could quite well believe by listening to them that they had a case. Strange how they caved, then, isn't it? And you can be damn sure I wouldn't have paid for ANYTHING that phone had done in the meantime.

    There's what the law says, and there's what a company will TELL you is their interpretation of the law. As someone who just got an out-of-court settlement from my car insurance firm for them cancelling my insurance unlawfully, you can be damn sure that knowing that the law trumps what they think can mean the difference between £1000 bills and debt collectors threatening me, and THEM sending me a settlement cheque to make it all go away before I take them to court for twice that.

    Stuff what a company tells you. If the charge is fraudulent on a piece of stolen hardware, don't pay the damn thing until a court tells you that you are liable for it.

  6. phil dude


    Used PAYG Three and my own phone (N900,N8,N9..) in Oxford. Jumped from VM who couldn't explain charges on their own bill, so perhaps this article is relevant their...

    With PAYG no money to steal, (unless phoning those bloody "national rate" help lines). Three are smart enough to allow you to not store information, so topups are done online or entered everytime. Since all-u-can eat data also...

    Seriously, if cash is an issue surely PAYG is the way? Here in the USA T-mobile offers $1/day (first use)...

    Just saying, not for everyone but...


    1. john devoy

      Re: PAYG...

      Virgin seem incapable of clearly explaining any bill they give, not just with mobiles.

  7. Graham Marsden

    "We are ensuring hardworking families...

    "...are not hit with shock bills through no fault of their own."

    Err, excuse me, but exactly *what* relevance does how hard you work (or whether you're working or not) have to this?

    Is she saying that if you're not (according to her) "hard working" that you have less entitlement to protection perchance???

    1. Kaltern

      Re: "We are ensuring hardworking families...

      Oh DO keep up...

      ... this is the Great Vision® of the Almighty DC, who has proclaimed that only the rich or middle-class (and above) working families may prosper and enjoy his attentions.

      Anyone else deserves to be hit by huge bills. Oh yes.

      1. Kaltern

        Re: "We are ensuring hardworking families...

        I presume DC visited here and downvoted me... lovely!

  8. paulc

    the real tragedy here is...

    why the bleep has it take so long????

  9. LDS Silver badge

    Because disabling the SIM and Phone IMEI is too hard for telcos?

    It's funny how much telcos are fast on jumping on new technology when it increase their revenues, and so slow when it decreases it. A stolen SIM/phone can be easily blocked and generate no traffic at all - it would be just a brick for the thief. But because even thieves may generate revenues, telcos don't do it, they work with thieves to ensure you pay more. Each stolen phone bill should be charged by law to the telco CEO - and you would see no stolen phone would work anynore.

  10. James O'Shea


    I was literally in one of T-Mobile (USA)'s shops not two hours ago, changing my plan. (No, not a contract, T-Mobile says they've abolished contacts) I have a Samsung flip-phone of some kind, very, very basic, with T-Mobile. It cost me $10 with a contract, when it was new, which it hasn't been for several years now. It makes calls. It sends and receives texts. In theory it has rudimentary web capability, but I've never used that. My new non-contract gets me unlimited talk, texts, and 4.5 GB/month data (which will be applied to my _other_ T-Mobile device, one of those hotspot thingies) for all of $50/month. Are you boys _really_ paying umpty-ump _pounds_ for a few minutes? My plan locks out 'premium' numbers and most long-distance numbers (I can call any number in the US, Canada, Mexico, and American overseas territories including Samoa and Puerto Rico, but not, unfortunately, the UK or ROI as part of my unlimited minutes) unless and until I enter a special access code. Said code is, of course, not kept with the phone. It's _impossible_ for someone to run up a bill on that phone. Even back when I was on contract I had unlimited minutes and texts and 5 GB/month data (for the above mentioned hotspot thingie) for the princely sum of $80. (Yes, my bill just went down...) and it was just as impossible to run up a bill. And the one time that the hotspot thingie went missing (I have a very good idea who developed sticky fingers, I do) one call to T-Mobile killed it, and got me a replacement which I could pick up at the above-mentioned local store the next day. Zero unauth data charged to me. Doesn't T-Mobile offer something like this in the UK, and if not, why the hell not?

    And by 'unlimited' I mean 'this is the phone I use to sit on hold to Microsoft and Dell and HP tech non-support' and it has been known to rack up over 15 _hours_ of use in a month. Yeah. It's really unlimited.

    1. Gavin Chester

      Re: interesting

      The UK does have plans that are unlimited, and international and premium numbers can be locked out on request, although it's an opt in system. Did you opt in to the code system or was it automatically done for you? That may be where we differ.

      However people tend to think they "may" need these services so don't request a bar.

      Once you report a device stolen you are not liable, the problem is also many many people don't even bother with a simple PIN lock on their devices (becasue 4 numbers slows them down too much). Calling UK numbers would (like you) come out of the plan minutes, its only where people have not PIN locked the phone, and have internatinoal calling enabled that it's an issue,and I suspect that may be the case in the USA for some people too.

  11. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    *staggered* this has not been SOP for at *least* a decade.

    "Well we did know you'd never called the Dominican Republic for 2 hours before and our call centre did log your report that it was stolen 2 hours before but we don't give a s**t as our T&C's make clear it's all your fault."

    And mobile operators wonder why they have high churn rates?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: *staggered* this has not been SOP for at *least* a decade.

      Your not liable for calls AFTER its reported stolen.

      And why is not more done? How can the phone company tell legitiamte and non legitiamte calls, the first time someone *HAS* to call aboard over a sick or dying relative and is prevented for doing so they'll be screaming and shouting to everyone in the press (Ok, Daily Mail) over how bad the mobile networks are for not letting they do what they want on their own device.

      Set a SIM and phone PIN and use it, and a lot of this issue goes away, but then common sense is not prevelent in a good deal of the populus when it comes to the shiny shiny toys we have..

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021