Report claims thousands are paying too much for mobiles

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The Independent Online

Thousands of mobile phone users are wasting hundreds of pounds each because they are on the wrong price tariff, according to research published yesterday by Phones4u.

Thousands of mobile phone users are wasting hundreds of pounds each because they are on the wrong price tariff, according to research published yesterday by Phones4u.

The independent retailer claimed mobile phone users who have been with the same network for more than a year are typically paying £240 more than they should for their calls.

Mobile users regularly sign up to tariffs that look cheaper but offer fewer free calls each month, only to end up paying more when they exceed their limits and begin paying for airtime.

The company also claimed that some mobile users did not understand their tariffs. Many use their phones to make calls when they are not entitled to free airtime - during peak hours, for example - or use their home phone lines when they could be making free calls on a mobile. Most mobile users also regularly fail to take advantage of bundling deals, which can reduce the cost of sending text messages.

"Customers initially want the right handset at the right price, but their focus then turns to getting value for money on calls and messages," a Phones4u spokesman said. "That can mean grappling with small print and often complex tariff charts."

The warning comes amid a continuing price war between mobile phone providers, prompted by the launch of easyMobile in March, a new pay-as-you-go service from serial entrepreneur Stelios Haji-Ionannou. The launch forced established providers such as Virgin Mobile and the big four networks - Orange, O2, TMobile and Vodafone - to cut their prices.

"Pay-as-you-go services are getting cheaper, which has tipped the balance away from contracts," said Jessica Simpson of Carphone Warehouse, another independent mobile phone retailer. Jonathan Morris, technology editor of What Mobile magazine, added: "There are many ways of cutting mobile phone bills and real opportunities to save money."

Morris said phone users who did not want to upgrade their handsets regularly could end up better off on a pay-as-you-go service. Contract customers get cheaper deals on handsets, which may even be available free of charge, but are then locked into more expensive call charges and line rental fees, typically for at least a year.

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