A new report from consumer rights group Citizens Advice claims that consumers on Three, EE and Vodafone are being overcharged by an average of £22 a month for phones they have already paid for.
The damning statistic is part of a wider picture where users who don’t change their contract at the end of its term keeping paying networks for a phone that they own.
The issue is especially acute for owners of high–end devices such as iPhones, with extra charges averaging £38 a month. And it looks like consumers over 65s are being hit hardest with 23% keeping the same contract more than 12 months after it has expired.
But while the networks involved have protested their innocence, there is little sign they will change their ways. If you’re worried about being affected, here’s how you can avoid being ripped off.
If you like your phone and don’t want to change it at the end of your contract, make sure you switch to a cheaper, SIM–only deal. These are always cheaper than deals which include a handset and SIMs will work in any phone that isn’t locked to a particular network.
In practice, this means you could change from an EE handset deal to an O2 or Vodafone SIM–only offer and vice versa.
Remember that once you reach the end of your contract, you now own your phone and therefore shouldn’t be paying anyone for it. You only need to pay for the calls, texts and data you use.
Tempted? Check out our wide range of SIM-only deals.
Buying SIM–free is a sure-fire way to avoid the pitfalls of a restrictive contract that can often come with a ton of small print. Obviously, this can prove costlier initially, but pairing a device you own outright with a SIM–only deal from any network will work out much cheaper in the long run.
For example, a new 64GB iPhone 8 on a two year EE contract costs £9.99 up front, plus £67 a month for unlimited calls, texts and 100GB of data (up from the usual 25GB). That works out at £1,617.99 over 24 months.
A SIM–free 64GB iPhone 8 costs £699, with a SIM–only deal on EE including 25GB data and unlimited calls and texts costing £26 per month over 12 months. Even if taken for two years, that deal works out as £624 for the tariff, totalling £1,323, a saving of £294.99.
If you can get past not having the extra data on the handset deal, it’s a no brainer.
Want to buy your phone ouright? Take a look at our best SIM-only deals.
Choose a different network
While Three, EE and Vodafone say they contact consumers towards the end of their contracts to get them to change or upgrade their deal, the reality is that many consumers aren’t doing so. Citizens Advice reckons as many as 36% of people on handset–inclusive deals stick with them once their initial term is up.
O2 and Sky Mobile separate the cost of their handsets and tariffs, meaning that at the end of the contract, the monthly fee comes down to cover calls, texts and data only. This can be changed at any time if a user wants to upgrade.