Government aims to tackle 'cost of living crisis': New deal struck with mobile phone operators follows energy companies' promise to cut bills

Culture Secretary says ministers are 'ensuring hardworking families are not hit with shock bills through no fault of their own'

Mobile phone users will no longer be liable for huge bills if their handsets are stolen and they fail to report the loss promptly, the Government will announce today.

Under a deal struck with mobile phone operators, such customers will be liable for only about £50 worth of additional call charges. The agreement is similar to the one already in place for credit and debit card users whose responsibility for fraudulent transactions is limited.

In addition, phone companies have agreed to allow customers to exit their contracts early without a penalty if their call charges are put up.

Ministers had been concerned that some firms were luring new business with cheap deals locking in customers for several years and then putting up charges mid-way through the agreement. Under the new plan, companies that increase charges will be obliged to write and inform customers - allowing them to leave penalty-free.

UK mobile operators have agreed to support the Government in EU negotiations designed to remove roaming charges across Europe entirely by 2016.

The agreement covers all four major UK mobile networks: EE, Three, Virgin Media and Vodafone. Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, said ministers were “ensuring hardworking families are not hit with shock bills through no fault of their own”. Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrat Consumer Affairs Minister, added: “The last thing you need after the hassle of a stolen mobile is to find that someone has used it and landed you with a sky high bill too.”

The moves are designed to show that ministers are tackling the “cost of living crisis” on which Labour has campaigned since Ed Miliband pledged in September to freeze energy bills for 20 months if his party wins the next election.

Yesterday energy firms agreed to pass on to customers the £50 average cut in bills this winter negotiated by the Government. The warm homes discount worth £135 for pensioners and vulnerable groups is being transferred from energy charges to general taxation. Ministers have relaxed some of the firms' obligations to insulate homes under the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) scheme. The target for reducing carbon emissions has been cut by 30 per cent; the date for completing the work delayed from 2015 to 2017 and there will be a switch away from expensive solid-wall insulation, which costs an average £10,000 per home, towards £300-per-home loft insulation and £1,000-per-home cavity wall insulation. 

Industry sources said means more homes would be insulated at a lower cost - although the “hardest-to-treat” buildings would not be tackled. Neil Marshall, chief executive of the National Insulation Association, expressed “serious concerns” that the number of solid wall installations would fall from 65,000 to 25,000 a year. “Half of those households in fuel poverty live  in properties with solid walls and therefore this cut could have a very serious impact,” he said.

The Government insisted there would be no overall rise in carbon emissions because of new measures such as a £1,000 grant for insulation work to home-buyers.

Ed Davey, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, told MPs: “All of the major energy suppliers have confirmed that they will pass the benefits of this package on to their customers…. these cost reductions will ensure that average energy bills are lower in 2014 than they otherwise would have been - on average by £50 per household.” However, he admitted that bills could rise next year if wholesale energy prices or network costs increased.

Labour said the average household bill would still increase by about £70 this winter even after the £50 average cut. Caroline Flint, the shadow Energy Secretary, told Mr Davey: “If you genuinely want to get bills down, nothing less than a price freeze, and action to stop the energy companies over-charging, will do.” She added: “There is not a single measure [in the Government's package] that will cost the energy companies a single penny.”

Your new bill: Energy price changes

Centrica, owner of British Gas Dual-fuel bills to be cut by average £53 on 1 January, after a £123 rise last month.

EDF No plan to raise prices again before 2015. 3.9 per cent rise last month will remain.

SSE Will pass on savings of around £50 by April next year.

RWE npower No price rises to spring 2015 unless wholesale costs go up. Recent 10.4 per cent increase will be reduced.

E.On Will take account of the Government’s package when it announces its winter price rise.

Scottish Power Will pass on full £50 cut, but said wholesale costs could still affect bills.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Sport
footballLive blog: Follow the action from the Capital One Cup semi-final
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Intervention Teacher Required To Start ASAP.

£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough, Cam...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century