/ Technology

Do you really own your mobile phone?

Mobile owners are wasting £355m paying for phones they’ve already paid off. Here’s Mark, a giffgaff customer, on why his mobile network has never bundled the cost of handsets into the service charge.

If I were to ask you how much your mobile phone costs – would you know? Would you know if you own it, or if it belongs to the network provider? Would you know how much is left to pay on your mobile phone? No, because they are all answers that most major network providers want to remain a mystery, so that you continue to pay month after month.

After hearing about Which?’s Unlock Mobiles campaign, which includes making mobile networks separate the cost of your handset from the service charge, I’m keen to explain why we all need to get behind it.

Buying your mobile phone

Having never been a fan of flushing my hard-earned cash down the toilet, I’ve never entered into a bundled phone contract that comes with a phone. But about two and a half years ago I called up my network provider, requested a PAC code (they didn’t even try and keep me even after being with them for over five years) and made the move to giffgaff. Why? Because not only is it contract-free, but they put you in control of what you spend and when.

I recently bought my iPhone 6 through giffgaff and I buy whatever ‘goodybag’ (monthly minutes, data and texts bundle) I need for the month ahead. That’s because giffgaff sells phones via a peer-to-peer lending service, which lets me pay monthly for my phone separately so I always know how much is left to pay.

I’m also 100% sure I own the phone (it’s sold unlocked), leaving me free as a bird to do as I please, whenever I want.

So, do you own your phone, or are you one of the millions of consumers who are dialling in the dark? Do you agree that the cost of phones should be unbundled from the service charge?

Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Mark Tiddy, giffgaff customer and community member. All opinions expressed here are Mark’s own, not necessarily those of Which?


I’m also on giffgaff, but I bought my iPhone 6 from Apple. If something goes wrong, it makes it much easier if my statutory rights (Sale of Goods Act) and my additional contractual rights (warranty) and are with the same party, i.e. Apple. If the retailer and manufacturer are two separate parties, one party can try to pass the buck to the other.

It is high time that the goods and service were unbundled, as suggested in the article above.

My only criticism of giffgaff is their out-of-bundle data charges. Each day, the first megabyte costs 20p/MB, then the next 19 megabytes are free, and then it’s 20p/MB for every subsequent megabyte. This is very expensive. Giffgaff’s answer is to buy a goodybag, but then you have to guess how much data you will use in a month and always end up paying for more than you needed. I would prefer Three’s much more straightforward 1p/MB flat rate where consumers pay a reasonable price only for what they consume. But giffgaff’s coverage (through O2) is far superior to Three’s.

Frank Cooke says:
17 April 2015

I was on O2 and the data was so so slow. Giffgaff do have some good points but I think in my humble opinion Virgin are a better deal.

Virgin uses EE’s network. The main reason that I switched from Orange (EE) to giffgaff after 15 years with Orange was because of EE’s deteriorating coverage, which resulted from EE decommissioning essential transmitters, creating new coverage blackspots that hadn’t previously existed. O2’s coverage is fantastic, especially in London. Data speeds could be better, but I’d rather have a slow data connection than no signal at all.

Frank Cooke says:
17 April 2015

I bought my iPhone 6 from Apple with Apple cover and a 30 contract with Virgin who use 3 my contract costs me £6.00 per month for unlimited text, unlimited data (cap @ 3gb) and 250 min any network plus all calls to other virgin phones free and calls from my landline to any virgin mobile free for 59 sec. I think I have a good deal

Something suggests that you’re receiving this favourable deal from Virgin only because you pay a hefty amount to Virgin for other services. One service subsidises another.

There are some big discounts to be had.

Last year I phoned up the service provider for one of my PAYG phones to ask for my PAC code, intending to take out a one month SIM-only contract with another provider. I was immediately offered a half-price contract without any haggling.

Frank Cooke says:
17 April 2015

Sorry you are wrong the only extra I get for having a home package is calls to other virgin phones are free. The package I have is open to all. Don’t just phone and say I want, talk to the people even those off shore and you will find them very helpful and you will also get a good deal. I started off on the all singing and dancing package for £18.00 and they advised to reduce as I was not a heavy user…..

Don’t get me wrong Virgin do have problems like any company but on whole they are quite good.

Which other services do you buy from Virgin? Landline? Broadband? Television? If you buy these other services from them, they will give you a discount on your mobile service. One service subsidises another.

Subject : Alcatel One Touch phone. Purchased from Tesco. Using the Vodaphone Pay as you go.
The cost to Operate is £110 from 1st of January to the 31st of August 2015. ie: 110-00 / 8 months equals about £13-75 p .
Vodaphone is about the best provider in our area the reception varies in our coastal position.

Is it possible to use GiffGaff’s Goody Bags. What about the £15-00 per month and what about the Sim Card for my phone. How will it work and O2 reception was not as good as Vodaphone.

Would it work and is it worth it.

I moved to Giff Gaff after recommendations from WHICH. Big mistake. If anything goes wrong (and it did) there is no way to contact them. It is as if they don’t exist. There is no customer service at all. I thin I will go back to tesco where you meet real people.

Jon says:
26 May 2016

I moved from O2 to Giffgaff recently. The reason for my move was that when I contacted O2 via an online chat support service to query why I wasn’t receiving 4G, their technician wouldn’t answer my question and instead kept asking me security questions. After I had correctly answered each of his questions he cleverly came up with one that stumped me: on what date had I last topped up the phone and by how much? I had to give up. So now I loathe O2, and I found it remarkably easy to transfer my number to Giffgaff after undergoing the usual “retentions” sales talk from O2. The retentions man told me that I wasn’t getting 4G because I was on an old PAYG tariff and I could easily be transferred to a 4G tariff at no extra cost. Maybe if you are having technical problems, the Retentions people are the people to ask. If I ever have technical problems with Giffgaff, I will know that having no technicians to help customers is no worse than having to ask O2’s technicians.

I have just switched from Vodaphone after 20 years because of being “milked” to BT. BIG mistake, their coverage is next to useless. I have 2 bars showing on my phone yet can’t make calls most times, nor receive emails even with the 3G showing. Is this a common fault on the EE network?

giffgaff are great until something goes wrong.
I found that I was paying for two goodybags for one account for one year. I asked them to investigate and have entered into a truly kafkaesque world where to escalate a complaint you have to email a specially set up email address that doesn’t work! On informing the agent of this they kept asking me to resend. They refused to escalate the complaint themselves. Eventually they asked me to send screenshots of my original email complaint (yes- screenshots!). Over 10 days later I have just received a reply to say that the engineers have repaired the specially set up email and could I now email them with the original complaint. Truly ridiculous