Press release:

Billing blunders: errors on mobile bills cost Brits £64 million

  • Almost three million Brits report being incorrectly charged by their mobile network[1]
  • Each error costs an average of £23 – totalling £63.5 million[2] in incorrect charges
  • Meanwhile 16.5 million[3] mobile users have received unexpectedly high phone bills, most commonly resulting from calling premium numbers or exceeding the data allowance[4]
  • One in six mobile users haven’t checked their bill in the last six months[5] with 1.3 million mobile users admitting they ‘could not be bothered’[6]
  • uSwitch.com calls on the industry to ensure key billing information is communicated clearly and urges consumers to check their bill.

 Almost three million Brits[1] have been incorrectly overcharged by their mobile phone network, according to new research by uSwitch.com, the price comparison and switching service.

On average, each billing error is worth £23 – equating to more than £63.5 million[2] in total. And, unless these are challenged by the customer or the network investigates of its own accord, it is unlikely that they will be identified and removed from the monthly bill.

Almost a third of the country – 16.5 million[3] mobile phone users – have at some point noticed that their monthly bill was higher than they were expecting. A number of these additional ‘surprise charges’ resulted from customers calling premium numbers (29%) or exceeding the data allowance (25%)[4]. This can prove costly, with the average ‘surprise charge’ standing at £18.70[7] – which works out at as an additional £224.40 a year.[7]

A lack of engagement with billing is allowing unexpected – and sometimes unwarranted – charges to slip under the radar. One in six mobile users say they haven’t checked their bill in the last six months[5].

Nearly half (47%)[8] of Brits say they haven’t done so as they simply assume everything is in order, while 1.3 million[6] admit they ‘could not be bothered’ to.

Adding to this is the fact that more than 3.5 million Brits[9] do not pay for their own contract, which means they may not have sight of their bills. As a result, they may well be unaware of any extra or incorrect charges they may be incurring.

Ru Bhikha, mobiles expert at uSwitch.com, comments: “This research shows the alarmingly high number of billing errors reported by mobile phone users, as well as an incredible 16.5 million Brits saying they have generated unexpected charges.

“With unexpected charges coming in at around £20, it’s easy to see how, if left unchecked, a great value deal can quickly become a drain on your finances. If you’re regularly going over your allowance or incurring extra charges it might be that you’re not on the right tariff.

“While networks should be doing all they can to prevent billing errors, they can and do happen so it really does pay to be vigilant. Checking your bill should take just a couple of minutes. If you spot something that you think is a mistake, contact your provider to let them know – you might well find you’re due a refund.

“A message to the networks – the fact that so many consumers cannot ‘be bothered’ to check their bill suggests it is seen by many as laborious task. We urge providers to make sure key information is easy to access, with the facts – the key information a customer wants to see – surfaced prominently so it is easy to ensure all is well.”

Find out how you could save over £1,000 a year with uSwitch here.

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Notes to editors

uSwitch.com surveyed a sample of 2,005 UK adults from the 23rd to 26th of March 2018. Results have been weighted to reflect a nationally representative criteria.

  1. Respondents were asked ‘Have you ever noticed any unexpected costs on your mobile phone bill?’. The net response for ‘Yes’ was 38%. These 38% were then asked ‘What was the reason for these unexpected costs?’ 17% answered ‘It was a billing error.’ This equates to 5.34% of all respondents. There are 51,767,000 UK adults. 5.34% of 51,767,000 is 2,762,628.
  2. Respondents who had noticed unexpected costs on their mobile phone bills were then asked ‘On average, how much did these costs add to your bill?’ The average additional charge of those who had noticed a billing error in the past was £23. £23 multiplied by the 2,762,628 who had billing errors due to their mobile network equals £63,540,444.
  3. Respondents who have a mobile phone contract were asked ‘Have you ever noticed any unexpected costs on your mobile phone bill?’ The net response for ‘Yes’ was 38%. This equates to 31.97% of all respondents. There are 51,767,000 UK adults. 31.97% of 51,767,000 UK adults is 16,549,949.
  4. Respondents with unexpected charges on their bills were asked ‘What was the reason for these unexpected costs?’ 29% said it was due to calling a number not covered by their contract, eg a premium number. 25% said it was due to going over their data allowance.
  5. Respondents were asked ‘Are you the main bill payer on your mobile contract?’ 15% responded that they do not have a mobile phone contract, leaving a sample of 85% who do. Respondents were asked ‘When was the last time you checked your phone bill?’ The net response for longer than the last six months was 16%, or one in six, of those who hold a mobile phone contract. This equates to 13.61% of all respondents surveyed. There are 51,767,000 UK adults. 13.61% of 51,767,000 is 7,048,574.
  6. Respondents who have not checked their phone bill within the last six months were asked ‘Why haven’t you checked your bill recently?’ 18% answered that they could not be bothered, which equates to 2.44% of all respondents. There are 51,767,000 UK adults. 2.44% of 51,767,000 is 1,265,129.
  7. Respondents with unexpected charges on their bills were asked ‘On average, how much did these costs add to your bill?’ 48% said it was over £10. The average additional charge was calculated as £18.70. £18.70 multiplied by 12 (months in the year) equals £224.40.
  8. Respondents who have not checked their phone bill within the last six months were asked ‘Why haven’t you checked your bill recently?’ 47% answered that they trust that everything is fine with their bills.
  9. Respondents were asked ‘Are you the main bill payer on your mobile contract?’ 6.78% responded ‘No.’ There are 51,767,000 UK adults. 6.78% of 51,767,000 is 3,511,378 people who do not pay for their own contract.

About us

Launched in September 2000, uSwitch is an online and telephone price comparison and switching service, helping consumers get a better deal on gas, electricity, broadband, TV services, mobiles and personal finance products including mortgages, credit cards, car and home insurance. Last year we saved UK consumers over £278 million on their energy bills alone.

Customers can sign up to an account that automatically monitors the energy market and notifies them when they can move to a cheaper tariff, while broadband customers can conduct a speed test to find out how fast their broadband is and identify the best deal for their postcode.

The multi award-winning 'Switching Made Simple' app allows customers to compare energy, broadband, credit card, mobile and SIM-only deals – and uSwitch also has a UK contact centre manned by energy and broadband experts. Customers can post their latest energy bills to FREEPOST USWITCH to receive a free call back and be guided through the comparison process, or they can email customerservices@uswitch.com with their postcode and usage details.

uSwitch is owned by ZPG, which operates some of the UK’s most trusted digital brands that help empower smarter property and household decisions including Zoopla, Money, PrimeLocation and SmartNewHomes.

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