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Brits overspent on their monthly mobile phone bills by over £1 billion last year

Budget-conscious Brits love their mobiles, but also like to know how much their monthly bills are going to cost. However, new research shows that despite having set payments, almost half of pay monthly mobile phone customers end up paying more every month.

  • Almost half of pay monthly mobile customers (48%) pay more on top of their set tariff every month****

  • Those who pay extra spend almost £100 a year more on average, but nearly one in ten (9%) overspend by more than £25 every month****

  • The main reasons for overspending are calling premium rate numbers (26%) and roaming charges (21%), while more than one in ten (12%) add to their bills by calling or texting competition or voting lines (12%). Worryingly 12% have no idea why they are overpaying each month****

  • 14% of British adults rely on other people – including partners and housemates – to sort out their mobile, broadband, home phone and TV bills****

  • Almost a fifth of pay monthly mobile users (18%) don’t get itemised bills, and of those who do, only around half (52%) check them religiously****. 

Phone-happy consumers overspend on their mobile tariffs by over £1 billion a year, according to, the independent price comparison and switching service. Almost half (48%) of UK pay-monthly phone customers – 10 million Brits – admit they pay more than their tariff each month, adding an average of £100 a year to their mobile phone costs. Staggeringly, nearly one in ten (9%) overspend by £25 every month, while more than one in four (27%) overspend by at least £10 a month.

When it comes to pointing the finger of blame, despite most of us knowing that 08 numbers are expensive, one in four pay monthly mobile customers (26%) still use their mobile phones to make these premium rate calls. Over a fifth (21%) are burnt by roaming charges abroad, while forking out for competition voting lines and texts leaves 12% as losers in the bill stakes. But worryingly, more than one in ten (12%) British adults are totally in the dark, having absolutely no idea where their money is going.

And consumers are also blindly racking up bills because they don’t sort out their finances themselves – 14% rely on partners and housemates to take care of their mobile, broadband home phone or TV bills for them. Of those who don’t handle their own bills, almost a quarter (23%) have never thought to check what they are paying, or asked the bill payer to look into getting a better deal by switching providers.

And consumers are also slack when it comes to checking usage – which can be essential in securing the best deal. Almost a fifth (18%) never receive itemised bills, and even those who do don’t always use them – only around four in ten (42%) check them religiously.

Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at, says: “Budget-conscious Brits are signing up to pay monthly mobile deals with the promise of plenty of calls and a set monthly bill. However, while it’s all well and good having a mobile bundle with stacks of minutes, texts and data, calling premium rate numbers, voting by text for your favourite music acts and incurring roaming costs when abroad can render them useless, as these are often not included in your tariff.

“The problem isn’t necessarily a cavalier or complacent attitude to these charges, but the fact that people just aren’t aware of how much they are going to cost. Simply being aware of out-of-tariff charges can save pounds each month and itemised bills are a great way of monitoring usage, and keeping tabs on whether the deal you have is right for you.

“If someone else looks after the bills, lucky you – few enjoy extra paperwork. But if you are paying then it’s in your interest to see if you could get a cheaper deal by moving elsewhere.

“For those savvy consumers who know when their packages are up for renewal and shop around, there are some great deals to be had. If your bills are too high, burying your head in the sand won’t help. If you’re switched on to your bills – how much you’re paying and precisely what you’re using – you can make sure you’re on the best plan for you, saving money in the process.”


Katherine Moss

Phone: 020 3021 5893


Twitter: @uswitchPR

Notes to editors

Notes to EditorsResearch was carried out online with the Consumer Opinion Panel amongst 2,101 respondents in January 2013.

  1. Of those with a monthly mobile phone contract, when asked “Do you pay this much each month for your mobile bill?” 38.4% said “Most of the time, but it’s sometimes more”, 4.9% said “Some of the time, but often it’s more”, 2.9% said “Hardly ever – it’s nearly always more” and 1.5% said “No, it’s always more”

  2. When asked “Approximately how much more is your mobile bill in a typical month?” 8.2% said “£10 - £15”; 5.6% said “£15-£20; 4.3% said “£20-£25”; 3.6% said “£25-£30”; 5.4% said “£30+”. Therefore 9% said more than £25, 27.1% said more than £10. The average amount was £8.32, which equates to £99.85 a year. Calculated from Ofcom’s figures that 92% of UK adults have a mobile phone, and 49% of these are contract phones. 48% of mobile users overspend by an average of £99.84. There are 49million UK adults (ONS). Therefore: (0.49 x (0.92x49,000,000) ) x 99.84= 1.058 billion

  3. When asked “For what reasons does your bill cost more (tick all that apply)?” 26% answered “Calling premium rate numbers”, 20.7% answered “Travelling abroad” and 11.7% answered “Calling/texting competition or voting lines.” 11.5% answered “Don’t know.”

  4. When asked about who pays the bills in their household, 86% said ‘I take care of my own bills’, leaving 14% that don’t.

  5. When asked “Do you get an itemised bill?” 42.4% said ‘yes, and I always check it’; 25.1% said ‘yes, and I sometimes check it’; 11.2% said ‘yes, but I rarely check it’; 3% said ‘yes, but I never check it’; 18.3% said ‘no’.

  6. Of those respondents who don't pay their own bills, 12% said 'I have never asked the person who organises the bills to see if we can save money by switching, whilst 11% said ‘I never think to check what I’m paying.

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