UK report on consumer problems in the mobile phone market

Calling the shots? is the title of a new Citizens Advice Bureau report that analyses consumer problems in the mobile phone market and explores opportunities for stronger consumer protections.

From the executive summary:

“The mobile phone market has transformed in the past 30 years as mobiles have evolved from a niche product into an essential part of everyday life. Ninety five per cent of households now have a mobile phone and take-up is 99 per cent among young adults.1 In basic respects the UK’s mobile phone market is functioning well: prices have fallen and innovation is booming as mobile technologies become more advanced. These trends are welcome but too many consumers still come to us with problems related to mobile phones; 21,500 did so last year alone. In this report we therefore explore opportunities for stronger protections in the mobile market. […]”

“Telecoms as a whole now ranks fourth in the consumer issues we see,outranked only by second hand cars, building repairs and energy. In order to understand more fully what might be causing these problems we have conducted an in-depth analysis of a sample of 500 cases. This has identified four key issues:

  • 39 per cent of our cases relate to f​aulty mobile phones​ and in particular to confusion over who is responsible when a mobile breaks. We see widespread uncertainty over how responsibilities divide between independent mobile retailers and mobile networks.
  • 17 per cent of the cases relate to s​tandards of service and contract exit terms. Typically these clients receive no or poor signal despite checking coverage maps and then struggle to escape their contract without large exit fees. These cases 5 often come down to ill-defined or unreasonable minimum standards of service.
  • 16 per cent of the sample related to m​isleading sales practices. T​hese are people who have received inaccurate information about the nature, cost or quality of the service at point of sale
  • 12 per cent of the issues related to b​illing disputes.​ These callers have often been hit without warning by a sky high bill, some as high as £3,000. This includes cases of mobile phone theft in which our clients have been hit by bills up to £23,000 to cover costs incurred by a mobile phone thief.