back to article Ofcom 'fair deal' action: UK mobile networks agree to slash contract charges when lock-in ends – except Three

Telecoms regulator Ofcom is pushing mobile companies to make clearer to customers when their bundled and split contracts end, as many are left on high tariffs even when they've paid off their handsets. Inertia and ignorance are costing punters £182m a year more than if they switched contracts on time, according to the …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    11 handsets - not one could I get working.

    A couple of years ago, I went through the house and collected 11 functional mobiles.

    After dicking about for a week, I still hadn't go a single one working. Most because they were network locked and a couple had got PIN locked. In each case the network wanted £££ to provide the codes with EE really pissing me off as I couldn't use an EE SIM in an Orange handset.

    1. fnusnu

      Re: 11 handsets - not one could I get working.

      Most repair shops will unlock them for peanuts

      1. eionmac

        Re: 11 handsets - not one could I get working. Costs at repair shop

        With a hand me down 'smartphone' locked to a previous owner's mobile phone network, I found repair shops (of three [3] I tried) wanted exactly the same as the network supplier.

        1. tony72

          Re: 11 handsets - not one could I get working. Costs at repair shop

          It's been a few years since I had to unlock a phone, but I bought an unlock code on eBay for I think around a fiver, and looking on eBay now, it looks like codes still cost around £2 - £10. For me, that makes it not worth the time trying to get the network to unlock a handset, you just know that's going to be a hassle. Assuming codes are available for the handset and network in question, of course, I don't know if it's as easy as buying a code in all cases.

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: 11 handsets - not one could I get working.

      Why not just buy unlocked phones in the first place?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why not just buy unlocked phones in the first place?

        I hadn't bought them all. Some were MiLs hand me downs when she got a new contract.

        And guess what ? Rule #1 of any new phone purchase is: no network lock. (Rule #2 is no operator cruft).

        That said, it's all a bit hypothetical at the moment. No need for a new handset - not has there been since 2015.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why not just buy unlocked phones in the first place?

          To be fair. I would blame the networks too... but I also don't have much sympathy for friends/family anymore when they buy trash, and then complain it's trash.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 11 handsets - not one could I get working.

      Did you actually ring your network provider. Almost all will unlock for free but it does depend on how long you've had the phone, whether you're still in contract and whether you bought it before 2013 (after which unlocking is free).

  2. revenant

    3 aren't entirely dodgy

    I signed up for a two year deal in 2013, paying for a Samsung phone. When the end of the contract was nearing I was expecting to have to get in touch with 3 to make sure I wasn't being charged the higher rate when the time was up.

    In fact, 3 rang me about the contract ending and the call resulted in me dropping to a monthly rolling SIM-only contract (my S3 was still adequately alive, then).

    So, I can't fault them for how they dealt with me. But of course, I'm just one customer...

    1. Oh Matron!

      Re: 3 aren't entirely dodgy

      I concur. Three's argument is just. Just because you're not paying for the phone any more, it doesn't mean that you're on a good deal.

      If I were three, I'd go and do a price comparison, based on the last 12 months data / calls / messaging and send it to the customer.

      1. CB181

        Re: 3 aren't entirely dodgy

        I think Three's arguement (and I think I see their point here), is that if customers know that when they go out of contract their existing provider will automatically move them to their cheapest available sim-only deal, then they will assume this is the best deal available, despite better potentially being available from other providers... such as Three.

        Customers will therefore be less likely to shop around, and switch networks.

    2. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: 3 aren't entirely dodgy

      Hmm, so they called you and got you to switch to a lower tariff but they don't want to sign up to an agreement that formally requires them to call people and give them the chance to switch to a lower tariff?

      Sounds entirely dodgy to me.

      1. revenant

        Re: 3 aren't entirely dodgy

        Dodgy is as dodgy does. I can only relate my own non-dodgy experience : what would be interesting and more informative would be to hear about other people's more recent experiences with 3.

        1. Jess--

          Re: 3 aren't entirely dodgy

          They call you to try and sign you up for a new shiny & another 2 year lock in.

          when it becomes clear that you aren't going to bite they offer to switch you over to sim only with a 12 month lock in.

          only if you really insist do they switch you to a sim only monthly rolling contract

          1. aks

            Re: 3 aren't entirely dodgy

            My experience was different. I argued with the network provider over months. Eventually they accepted that I was correct and gave me a refund. They also said I was infringing one of their less obvious Terms and Conditions and were terminating my pay-monthly contract. At the end of that month, I contacted them to get a porting number. I should have been handed to the porting team but instead was connected to the retention team. Despite me saying that all I wanted was the porting number, the guy strung me along until finally he offered me a 20% discount on the official price, locked in for 12 months but valid for 24. I accepted and am now out of the 12 month lock-in.

            My phones have always been owned, never on contract.

    3. Rathernicelydone

      Re: 3 aren't entirely dodgy

      I also like Three’s PAYG tariff which is simple and easy to understand. The fact that you can also call abroad for the same price as in the UK (at least for the country I wish to get in touch with) is a great bonus which means I don’t have to pay extra for international calls like I needed to with Vodafone.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: 3 aren't entirely dodgy

        Went into a Vodafone shop a few years ago because they had a phone I was interested in. The sales bloke tried to tempt me away from Three. The sales bloke was telling me about their almost 50 countries I could roam in for no extra charge. He told me they were the first to abolish roaming charges within the EU. However they only did that because the EU said they all had to. Three with their feel at home were offering a service to more diverse places that allowed you to use your minutes text and data abroad for no extra cost. I looked at the Vodafone list and was instantly drawn to the fact that most of the nations listed were European or related to one. Also since when did the Vatican City get their own mobile network?

        Aren't these mostly EU destinations?

        "Oh well yes they are but then for a small fixed daily fee you can 'roam further' and use your minutes/texts etc. in more countries."

        "So how much would say a 14 day excursion to the USA cost me above and beyond my allowance?"

        <bit of maths later>

        "£70 sir"

        "How much!" which I said so loudly people had turned to look at me.

        "It works out at only £5 a day sir"

        "Oh wait are you PAYG or Pay Monthly?


        "Oh then it's <checks computer> 60p to make and 36p per minute to receive calls."

        "That's just as bad."

        "I think we're quite competetive sir"

        "Well on Three it wouldn't cost me anything more."

        "I'm not sure about other what firms charge sir"

        "Then how can you say you're competitive?"

        He also seemed to lose intetest when I mentioned I was on PAYG which spoke volumes. I then left the showroom totally bemused. Needless to say I didn't switch to Vodafone (or anyone else). Three aren't perfect by any means and if you're not in a feel at home destination it's wickedly expensive.

        1. NeilPost Silver badge

          Re: 3 aren't entirely dodgy

          Yes but conversely for £6/day you *can* roam with Vodafone in Canada which is cell-phone expensive. 3 (and BTMobile) have no option then v. expensive traditional roaming costs.

          Depends where you go. Similar for say somewhere like Thailand.

    4. NeilPost Silver badge

      Re: 3 aren't entirely dodgy

      they are quite punchy about pre-calling customers. I had similar. 2 times on different contracts.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    EE Are A Joke!

    I with EE and have been since they were Orange.

    I am with them because they simply offer the best signal at my house, whilst being cheaper than most other providers for what I need.

    Every year they put my bill up by the same percentage as "Inflation" or what ever they justify it and recently I got an email saying that they are putting up the cost of everything again, if I go over my allowance.

    Calls and Picture Messages inside my plan as they say are going up by 10p, and text messages are going up by 1p and then all the international stuff is basically going up by £1 or more.

    I have no doubt that in 6 months time I will get another one saying they are putting the price up again with the same excuse of "We need to charge more because of 5G, you know that wonderful thing that people want stopped and you cannot get in your area"

    My contract with them runs out in January next year, I have a Huawei Mate 10 Pro and my package is £48 per month, I fully suspect that I paid the phone off probably about 6 months ago, and EE have done nothing about my price and won't even comment on it when asked.

    The problem is, I need a mobile phone and so I have no option but to go with EE again when it comes to the time to renew because all the other providers either have poor signal quality or are stupidly higher priced for the packages.

    I get 40Mb down and 30Mb up on my phone on EE, Virgin gets 10Mb to 20Mb down and about 2Mb up, Vodafone well if you can cope with 3g speeds then you are in luck but mostly if you manage to get 4G you are lucky to get 1Mb down and 1Mb up, then you have 3 and O2 which most of the time you are lucky to get a signal.

    I have had EE on the phone saying I can get X phone for X amount each month added to my plan, I have already them though that I will be buying my phone outright next time and it will probably be something similar to the Pocofone when the time comes as there will be something better by then, and from EE I will just get a Sim Only contract because I am fed up now with the rip off merchants that they are, I just wish I could tell them to sod off fully.

    1. aks

      Re: EE Are A Joke!

      I don't understand. EE are offering the best service in your area and you can afford to pay the monthly rate.

      ASDA are based on the EE network. Have you looked at their offering?

      I'm not sure about your phone but on mine I can select which network I'm using. Allowing this to be done automatically is how I normally operate but have happily chosen a specific other one at times.

    2. NeilPost Silver badge

      Re: EE Are A Joke!

      Go to BT Mobile or Plusnet Mobile. Both of them MVNO on EE if you need to stay for signal reasons.... they are ran as separate businesses within the wider BT Group so will have no qualms at Fucking EE over for a contract.

  4. RyokuMas

    No surprises...

    "The only uncooperative operator is Three..."

    The same Three who attempted to send in the debt collectors, after billing me for a service that not only I had asked them to cancel, but that was, in fact, no longer possible to use.

  5. LeahroyNake

    New phone every year

    '1.4 million would be better off on another deal – on average, overpaying by £11 a month.'

    While I hate the thought of phones ending up in landfill you can buy a Huawei 9 lite for £120 and use the extra few quid saved a year for a screen protector (they come with a case).

    I will not be doing it every year but the battery is not replaceable and screens get damaged eventually. For a new screen and battery you may be better off just buying a new one as needed.

    SIM only customer £10 PCM.

  6. druck Silver badge

    It's not just the network

    Beware, it's not just the network which determines if you continue to pay full price once the phone is paid off, where you bought it can make a difference.

    I had several contracts with O2, and at the end they automatically transferred me on to a much cheaper 1 month rolling SIM only contract. Except for last time, when I found they were still charging me full whack the month after the contract had ended. I phoned them and it turns out because I'd bought the phone through Carephone Warehouse, they'll keep charging until I notice. I was very pissed off with them about that.

    1. aks

      Re: It's not just the network

      So who were you pissed off with, O2 or CW? Who's contract did you sign?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm with Three on this one

    If I can get a cheaper deal at the expense of those who can't put a reminder in their calendars, why wouldn't I?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm selfish and proud

      Screw the lot of you, I'm ok.

  8. NeilPost Silver badge

    “Sky Mobile and GiffGaff do not, and have never, offered bundled deals so were excluded from the research. ®”

    What is this supposed mean - my son has an iPhone SE on a 24 months bundled contract. £25/m (with a £5 discount for being a Sky TV customer) so effectively £20.

    Can’t wait for November when it runs out as Sky’s data - yes it does rollover - is miserly and expensive.

  9. clyde666

    the market has improved

    Been on a sim only deal for maybe 3 or 4 years. My "contract" is so old it was a Tmobile deal. Have been getting 'data fair usage' warnings for a while now, so phoned them up last night. Had already researched online. Got them to change me to a £10 a month deal, data, calls, and texts way more than I need. I did have to agree to a 12 month contract but that's ok.

    £10 a month covers most of my comms needs, except broadband. That's a heck of an improvement since I first started paying for mobile phones.

  10. TheChairman

    Cayman island registered Three, is owned by a Chinese oligarch and run in Europe by Aussies.

    Deffo not dodgy, not dodgy at all.

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