/ Technology

Utility Warehouse: are you in control of your mobile bill?

Mobile texting

More than 45,000 people have supported our Unlock Mobiles campaign, and the mobile provider Utility Warehouse supports it too. Here’s Simon on why you should have more control over what you spend on mobiles.

The rise of the mobile phone, and its use in every aspect of our lives, has been nothing short of extraordinary. Since the first mobiles were bought in 1984 (weighing a kilo and costing almost £3,000) they have become indispensable to our daily routine.

We use them for work, to connect on social media, to watch videos, to play games, and to read the news. Soon, we’ll use them to pay for our shopping. They store our emails, our diaries, our photos and our contacts. And we may even occasionally use them to speak to somebody!

Keeping up with the times

In such a fast moving market, we need to ensure our service doesn’t get left behind, like some of the early handset manufacturers who didn’t move with the times. And this is especially important for Utility Warehouse, as we don’t spend a single penny on advertising in newspapers or on TV. Instead, we rely upon existing satisfied members to recommend us to their family and friends, so we really need to stay ahead of the game.

That’s why we never lock our handsets, why we clearly show members the cost of our Price Plans separately from the cost of our phones, and why, if we introduce a cheaper tariff for new members, all existing members benefit too.

These are all reasons why we’re delighted to support Which?’s campaign to unlock better mobile deals for customers. Which? wants to make it easier for you to switch mobile deals when you come to the end of your contract. So, going forward, we’ll write to members before they reach the end of their contract with information on alternative deals; if they do nothing, we’ll continue to automatically reduce their monthly charge once their contract has ended and they have paid for their handset.

Putting customers in control of what they spend

As well as talking to Which?, we’ve been talking to our members. There were three messages which came back really clearly. Firstly, people want to be in control of their monthly bills, but don’t always like Pay-as-you-Go. Secondly, they hate getting a big bill if they, or one of their children, have been over eager on Instagram or calling their friends. And thirdly, they feel it’s unfair to find themselves stuck on the wrong price plan if their lifestyle changes.

Based on this feedback, we’ve introduced three features. Firstly, we have a free benefit called Budget Control, which ensures our members can’t spend more than their inclusive allowance of calls and data in any given month, unless they choose to do so. Secondly, we always text members to let them know when they have hit their calls or data limit for the month, so that they can adjust their use if they want to. And thirdly, members can change price plan, even if it’s in the middle of the month.

But enough about us! Have you ever faced an unexpectedly big bill at the end of the month? Are there any other features you’d find useful?

This is a guest post by Simon Thompson, Telecom Services Director at Utility Warehouse. All opinions are Simon’s own, not necessarily those of Which?


My first mobile phone was locked to One-2-One, which was taken over by T-Mobile, which promptly doubled the cost of calls on PAYG. I learned that Carphone Warehouse sold unlocked phones, so in future I avoided the stores run by the networks. My present phone was purchased from Apple and is not locked. If I have a problem with the phone I will call Apple and if I have a problem with billing or coverage I will call Vodafone. I have it in writing that Vodafone will not increase their monthly charge mid-contract.

I think I have it all under control but may well have overlooked something. 🙁

Simon, it’s great that Utility Warehouse doesn’t do some of the bad things done by other networks such as SIM-locking. But I am very disappointed to see that you charge a whopping 19.87p/MB (£198.70/GB) for data and that you charge 20p/min for calls to 0800 numbers.

The only way to pay a reasonable price for data with Utility Warehouse is to buy a bundle or allowance covering the expected usage. This means that customers have to guess in advance how much they will use. If they use less than the allowance, they end up paying for more than they consumed. If they use more than the allowance, then you charge them £198.70 per gigabyte. This is not a fair pricing structure. Imagine if we had to buy electricity and gas in this way – guessing how much you will consume in a month and then wasting any units that you don’t use by the end of the month and paying a punitively high charge if you need to go over the allowance. Consumers wouldn’t tolerate it with energy, so why do mobile networks expect consumers to tolerate this practice with mobile phone services? Having said this, I do appreciate that you allow customers to prevent out-of-bundle charges and to limit their consumption to their allowance; this is not something that other networks do. But why not have a simple charging structure without bundles, e.g. 1p/MB for the first 1GB, 0.75p/MB for the next 1GB etc? Three does this for example.

Moving on to the 20p/min charge for 0800 numbers, this will soon be outlawed. However, what I find astonishing is that whereas your out-of-bundle charge for calling a mobile number is 18p/min, when one of your customers calls an 0800 number, Utility Warehouse receives a small contribution from the called party, but you are charging more than for a call to a number where you have to pay a termination charge to the called network. The economics of your prices don’t make sense.

Although Utility Warehouse is much fairer to its customers than many other networks, there is still a lot of room for improvement.

The Mobile Termination Rate is now under 1p per minute. There’s no excuse for charging 18p per minute for calls to mobile phones.

Calls to 080 (but NOT 0500) numbers must become free from all mobile networks in a few months time. Charging 20p per minute is outrageous.

The 19.87p/MB charge for data (which, incidentally, is £203.47 per GB as 1 GB = 1024 MB) will soon become even more of a problem when 4G becomes commonplace, as it will then be all too easy for a mobile phone user to accidentally press the wrong button and download a full TV episode so fast that he will be charged £100 or more before he realises.

Clint, the definition of 1GB=1024MB applies to computer memory (RAM). For other purposes, including networking, 1GB=1000MB. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gigabyte#Definition

With call and data allowances exceeding the allowance can be very expensive, like having an unarranged overdraft. My suggestion is that if you exceed your allowance by 10% your monthly payment should be 10% greater. It would be even better to roll over unused allowances from month to month, but perhaps that is expecting too much.

Ahmet Hajiahmetoglu says:
6 February 2015

TPO have been unable to provide promised mobile service-paid £45 .00 to TPO for 3 months!
TPO have been Incapable of ,failed in delivering ,3 months in a row , to provide promised Service which I paid for!
TPO + its Signal Carriers failed in providing promised services !
ONLY Able to use Less than 3 hours ,in 3 months – 500 min./ 5GB Data Allowance
have not been Able to Use Any Of 15GB DATA Not Activated !-No solution was offered by slow responding TPO Customer Services to my Complaints for 3 months in a row!Customer Services promised to apply for Compensation from The Carriers.Explained ,home ,”NO SPOT” ,Low Signal Reception -complained again + again to TPO,no refund /rebate /solution was offered/suggested , not warned ,keep on our network we can give Credit of minutes/Data for what U have been able to use as it is TPO+The Carrier’s Fault !Complained to All the Carriers -No Result /No Remedy , complaints not escalated ,TPO did not Activate OR let me use Any of the 15GB Data later.Taken in by their “support for good causes” but “charity starts at home !f TPO can not provide the promised service and have no intention to keep customers !It is a Loss/Loss

Ahmet Hajiahmetoglu says:
6 February 2015

When a customer cancells one package and Upgrades to another BT should Email details of the Order ,”quote the complaint” ,plain+ simple not just BT Ref !
The past 4 years BT have failed to fulfill our Broadband Orders 3 times! Cancelled every Time after Wasting Time ordeals! BT has a way of disappointing and “destroying good will” every time I attempt to order broadband! Customer Services ineffective in tracing/escalating orders + progress history! Novenber paid increased Price Annual Line Rental ! If they Refund what is left-9 months Line Rental- I will cancell ALL BT Services,- customer for 34 years-+ migrate ! Will not Refund!BT not willing to fulfill Order /supply Infinity Broadband the past 4 weeks! Issues EITHER -Delays/problems.OFCOM does not take Consumer Complaints like 4 years ago !What remedy is there for total failure as a service provider? “Ripp + milk them” is the motto with BT the mentality of “monopoly minded” !

I have been with Utility Warehouse for my broadband and home phone for many years. Broadband was always slow, UW did nothing to sort this out. I eventually realised that my bills were increasing with no change in how I was using broadband and phone. So I investigated and found a broadband/home phone package which provided broadband, unlimited calls and international calls for 1/3rd of the price – so I switched. UW imposed a 6 week line rental on me (even though my new provider was already charging me for this) and then to cap it all they imposed a £10.00 disconnection fee. How they are a recommended provider I fail to see as their charges are over the top, poor service and no care for long term customers. If you want to continue calling them recommended provider I suggest you investigate this.

Rahma says:
3 August 2015

I have utility warehouse as my phone company do I get free apple insurance with my iPhone 5c I have a friend she has iPhone 5c also but from three g and she has it do I. You can get a new charger if you have original charger also if you break your phone you can get a new one but you have to hand that one in can you tell me if I have apple insurance all the other leading networks have it do i

I am frustrated by the lack of 4g. Utility warehouse piggy backs on EE whole have the biggest 4g network. When will we see this -every time I as its “coming soon”. The first time I asked was two years ago and it still isn’t here!