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UK Mobile Users Overpaying By £530m Annually, Reveals Research

Virgin Media O2 exposes overcharging as pickpocket experiment highlights consumers paying for phones they already own.
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Footage of this theft in broad daylight wouldn’t be out of place on Crimewatch – but this ‘swindler’ knew he was being filmed the entire time.

Lee Thompson was recruited as the ‘The Piccadilly Pickpocket’ to pinch people’s phones – before handing them straight back and asking for payment – to show how many people are being fleeced by their mobile phone provider.

A person pickpocketing an iPhone in broad daylight. Pickpocketing for mobile phones have become more common for theft. (PINPEP/SWNS TALKER)

Overpaying for smartphones is estimated to cost Brits more than £530m every year, with the average impacted consumer overpaying by more than £200 annually – and unlike pickpocketing phones, it is not illegal.

The pickpocket was working with Virgin Media O2, which commissioned research of 2,000 adults, and found more than a quarter (28%) of those on a contract believe they are overpaying.

Millions end up overpaying for their smartphones when they fall out of contract because most network providers don’t fully, or automatically, reduce customers’ bills once they’ve paid for the cost of the phone, meaning they are still being charged for something they already own.

“Every day, millions of people are unknowingly paying for phones they already own when they could be saving a fortune,” said Rob Orr, chief operations officer at Virgin Media O2 which is urging consumers to check if they’re overpaying using a new online overpayment calculator. “Our research shows millions of phone users are rightly unhappy they’re being asked to pay twice for their phones.”

The new research also found more than a quarter (28%) of respondents have been with the same network for more than 10 years, with 26% having had only one handset across the decade.

“We’re continuing to shine a light on this pernicious practice to ensure Brits stop paying for what’s rightfully theirs,” said Orr.

A man looking at the woman in the eye while pickpocketing her phone. People who pickpocket phone could end up selling phones. (PINPEP/SWNS TALKER)

Consumers in this situation could well have paid for their smartphones twice or three times over.

Two-thirds said they would be unhappy if they found out they were being charged for a phone they had already paid for, but 30% admit they rarely check their mobile phone bill to see if they have.

Had they known at the start of their contract they could be overcharged for their smartphone, almost half (48%) admit they would never have signed up.

A staggering 82% said the onus should be on the network operators to stop overcharging consumers, yet millions of consumers across the country are set to unwittingly keep making payments towards handsets they already own in a problem that’s set to run and run.

More than half (52%) admitted they did not how much it would cost to buy their handset outright when they took out their contract, yet without this information consumers are left in the dark as to how much they’re paying towards their devices.

And 43% of those surveyed, via OnePoll, admitted they would take their custom elsewhere if they found out they were overpaying for their phone.

A person stealing an Android phone out of another person’s pocket. (PINPEP/SWNS TALKER)

When asked what would prevent them back from switching network providers almost a quarter (23%) said they’ve been with the same provider for years, unaware they may have been overcharged, with 16% believing all providers were the same.

“For the past decade, O2 has been the only network operator to have been automatically and fully reducing customers’ bills once their handset has been paid off,” said Orr. “But unfortunately, millions of people on other networks are getting swindled without even realizing.”


Produced in association with SWNS Talker

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