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Charity slams government over phone theft charges

This news post is over 9 years old

Citizens Advice wants cap on bills of stolen mobile phones

Victims of phone crime are being fleeced by £4 million a year across the UK because of poor government safeguards, Citizens Advice Scotland has warned.

New analysis by the charity show that consumers across the UK who sought advice from the charities could have saved £120,000 if bills from stolen mobile phones had been capped, as they are with stolen credit cards.

Its analysis of Ofcom figures also suggested that as many as 160,000 people a year may be hit by shock bills from lost or stolen phones, and the total cost to these consumers could be around £4 million pounds.

One year ago the UK government and phone providers promised to cap bills from stolen mobile phones by early spring this year.

But continued delays have led to people reporting charges from £160 up to £23,000 to charities’ consumer helpline between April and November 2014; bills that could have been avoided if the cap was already in place says CAS.

Our research shows the need to act quickly to report the loss. Otherwise you could lose thousands of pounds

Margaret Lynch, chief executive of Citizens Advice Scotland, said: “Many of us have had the unpleasant experience of losing our phone or having it stolen.

"We rely so much on our phones these days that it is always a shock, and we’re not always sure exactly what to do or who to contact.

"But our research shows the need to act quickly to report the loss. Otherwise you could lose thousands of pounds."

Research commissioned by Ofcom put the average bill from lost or stolen mobile at £65, our research of our own clients has found that the impact can be much more.

Some victims are pushed into debt after being hit by bills of thousands of pounds.

To protect consumers in extreme cases, the charity alongside its sister charity in England and Wales is calling for a cap of £50 on bills from stolen phones to be put in place by the UK government and phone providers without delay.

Lynch added: “We urge the government and phone providers to re-focus their efforts on taking actions that will protect consumers.”

CAS Top Tips for all phone users to help protect themselves
Put a passcode on both the handset and SIM card of your phone to make it more difficult for thieves to use
Contact your phone provider to block all calls made to premium or international rate phone lines
Make a note of the contact number for your provider and the IMEI number on the back of your phone
If your phone has been stolen, report it to your mobile phone network straight away
Report a theft to the police as soon as you can
If you are charged for unauthorised calls you should try and negotiate with the network and see if they will reduce the bill
If your phone is insured you may be covered for the cost of unauthorised calls