Mobile phone users will be protected from massive bills when their devices are stolen under measures announced on Sunday.
Customers have been landed with charges of thousands of pounds because of usage by thieves.
Under a voluntary agreement five leading providers – EE, O2, Three, Virgin Media and Vodafone – will introduce a “liability cap” of £100 which will be activated as long as the phone is reported lost or stolen within 24 hours of going missing.
It means the most a victim of theft will pay is £100.
Citizens Advice said consumers regularly contact them for help after being hit with five-figure bills. Between April last year and February the organisation estimates that users have lost as much as £140,000 because of bills on stolen mobiles.
Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: “Victims of phone crime should not be paying excessive bills run up by thieves.
“A cap on bills from stolen mobile phones will come as much-needed relief to consumers targeted by phone fraudsters. Citizens Advice has been calling for a cap to be put in place after helping consumers landed with bills as high as £23,000.
“We will be keeping a close eye on the phone providers’ caps to see if they do really protect phone crime victims from the worst bills.”
Three introduced the protection for its customers in January and the other four operators have confirmed they will follow suit.
All five firms have signed up to a new code of practice which also obliges them to:
• Provide clear pricing information and alerts when consumers reach data bundle limits;
• Provide information on how to avoid roaming charges;
• Provide a barring function so users can protect themselves against unauthorised or inadvertent calls to premium rate services and in-app purchases.
Which? said the protection did not go far enough. The consumer champion has called for firms to charge customers nothing if their phone is reported lost or stolen within 48 hours.