/ Money, Technology

Is it your fault that your mobile bills are too high?

Man looking at mobile phone bill

How many minutes and texts does your mobile contract give you and how many do you use? If you know the answers, have a gold star. But many of us don’t have a clue and it’s costing us lots of money.

It’s costing us £5 billion a year, in fact.

Not each of course – even the most dopey among us would notice £5 billion leaking out of our accounts – but it does break down to an average of £195 each a year. Ouch.

This new figure comes from a study by Billmonitor, which analysed 28,417 phone bills and compared them with what the person actually used.

Money down the drain

The study found that many people are drastically overestimating how much they use their phone, or underestimating their usage and having to pay expensive out-of-allowance rates.

It’s a familiar story and fits in with our own research at the end of last year when we found that around 10 million users were paying more than they needed to. And, 11 million were either unsure about their allowance or had no idea how much it was.

It’s shocking how much people are throwing away, and it’s only going to get worse with more and more people using the internet on their phones without a clear concept of how much data this needs.

Work out your mobile budget

But who’s to blame? Is it the networks for not making it clear enough? The retailers for always trying to sell you a bigger contract? No, I’m going to be bold and say that it’s our own fault.

It’s not hard to work out how much you actually need – just call your provider and ask them for your typical monthly usage. I bet that once you know this, you’ll be able to find lots of deals to save you money every month.

You wouldn’t buy four times as much food as you need every month. You would work out what you need and plan accordingly. Why do we treat our mobile phone budgets any differently?

Have you got the right mobile contract?

I don't have a contract (48%, 108 Votes)

Yes, my allowance suits me (28%, 62 Votes)

No, I'm over/underpaying (15%, 33 Votes)

I don't know (9%, 20 Votes)

Total Voters: 223

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Tim, why does it always seem like you are telling me off? You’re right, though – I really overpay and it is definitely my fault. I signed up to a rubbish contract 2 years ago and am just coming to the end of it – I’ve been paying over £25 a month for 100 texts, 100 minutes and no data. This will all change in about a month, though, and never did I think I’d be so excited by the words ‘sim-only contract.’ Kerching.

Tim, you’re right – I wouldn’t buy four times as much food as I need each month. Except if I had to sign up today for a 24-month contract with a supermarket to supply me with a certain amount of food each month I might! People’s circumstances and need for minutes/texts/data change over time, and it’s the inflexibility of the arrangement that mean they waste money.

I’ve been on nearly every network in My life, From PAYG & Contracts,

But now back on PAYG with GiffGaff.Com 30 days goody bags & Were UNLIMITED really means & Offers UNLIMITED deals/packages 🙂

Hi Tim,

Orange charge £1.50 for a details breakdown of your text/minutes/data usage. I think this is insane, and I therefore have absolutely no idea what my typical usage is. I’m not sure what to do about it as I don’t want to give Orange the satisfaction of paying for something that should be free!

Great article though, and something I really need to think about.

Mark says:
14 April 2011

Also factor in the likes of Asda Mobile or other companies that either remove the tariff completely leaving you with a locked phone falsely sold to you, or where they make excessive prices increases such as the 150% rise in Internet charges, 50% rise in texting, 25% rise in calls, 25% rise in voicemail. Most of the mobile industry couldn’t spell the word “fair”. In my case I think Asda lied on it’s website about the mobile being unlocked, when it was indeed locked, removed the £25 tariff with not suitable alternative and now have announced extreme price hikes. The customer service line is like what a premium rate sadomasochism service, pay money to be abused down the phone! Definitely leaves a bad tase in your mouth, a bit like their so called “chosen by you” range. No I didn’t choose it, did you?

Lorna says:
13 March 2013

I think my contract is just right for me actually, which is why I signed a two year deal. However, despite never using more that my allocated voice minutes, texts or data my bills have gone progressively up and up! Like most people, I have a busy life and haven’t paid too much attention up till now – the last two bills have been £38 and £40 my bill is supposed to be £25. Enough is enough.
On further examination it seems that I am being charged around £15 extra per months for calls to 084 and 087 numbers? How can I avoid these crazy charges?

My contract is up June 2013 but I don’t have a landline so can’t avoid calling 084 numbers some times! Any recommendations?

Landline users have the same problems with 0844 numbers. Some GPs use these numbers and there has been a lot of concern about this on other Conversations.

The best solution is to try to find an alternative number and the easiest first step is to try this website: http://www.saynoto0870.com

I moved to a landline tariff that includes 0870 and 0845 numbers, but not 0871 or 0844 numbers.

I think 3 Mobile are about to lose some of their customer services star rating. I have four contracts with them in this house and hitherto we have been happy with their service. Just over two weeks ago I received an (undated) letter telling me that one of my contracts was going to end on 24/04/16. It was taken out in 2013, costs £6.90pm for 200 mins, 5000 texts and 500MB data and is now on a rolling month basis. They proposed to put me onto a new plan with 600 mins, unlimited texts and 1GB data that costs £14pm. Nice – a mere doubling of my cost. They actually still offer 200 mins, unlimited texts and 500MB data for just £8pm, but obviously that plan does not meet their target of substantially increasing the value of their customers contracts!
Two days ago I received a second letter for another near identical Contract I have with them (they say it will end on 8th May). Again, their initial offer is a doubling of contract price and a failure to mention the availability of a similar lower priced plan.
They also say I could change to any other plan (at a price) or leave. I looked around and decided to leave and get a deal that suits us better for less elsewhere. However to leave they demand that I give them 30 days notice.
I have refused to give them any such notice because they have terminated my Contracts – not the other way around and have demanded the PAC code to keep our numbers (which I have at least received). PAC codes only last 30 days, so demanding 30 days notice means you cannot even “work out” that period and they also refuse to allow you to stay on the original calling plan until the notice period is up.
They are obviously doing this with everyone on an older Contract. It is another way of making it more difficult and/or costing customers more, whether they stay or leave.
3 Mobile also need to learn to comply with English Contract Law.