Mobile phone customers being ‘saddled with unnecessarily expensive contracts’

Tariffs rarely match real needs
Tariffs rarely match real needs

Mobile phone customers risk being “saddled” with contracts costing hundreds of pounds more than they need to, research for Citizens Advice has found.

Citizens Advice commissioned a mystery shop among mobile phone providers and found major variations on contracts offered to customers.

The monthly cost of tariffs recommended to the mystery shoppers across the whole survey ranged from £7 to more than £50.

The average monthly tariffs recommended by phone staff were £23.16 - more than double the price of the most suitable tariff found by the Citizens Advice research at £9.89.

Over the course of a two-year contract, this could mean a customer is paying £318.48 more than they need to.

Mystery shoppers provided the same information to all sales staff and did not express a preference for the kind of phone.

They said they wanted a tariff for any kind of smartphone which met “average” needs, around 250 minutes of calls, 250 texts and 200MB of data per month. Some 350 mystery shops were carried out, including some in store, some over the telephone and some via web chat.

Small differences were found in the average cost depending on the shopping channel used - the average monthly cost of tariffs recommended in store was £23.01, compared to £23.09 over the telephone and £24.01 on web chat.

Citizens Advice said 40% of mystery shoppers were recommended tariffs with 1,000 or more inclusive minutes of calls - at least four times more than was needed by the customer.

Mystery shops were carried out among Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three and mystery shops were also allocated to independent retailers.