Many UK smartphone users are overpaying for their devices

Young woman using smartphone in Sydney
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Most Brits could be unknowingly overpaying for their smartphones, a new survey has found. Mobile network operator Virgin Media O2 recently surveyed 5,000 consumers to learn how diligent they are with regard to their pricing plans, expenses, and costs. 

The results have shown that more than nine in ten (93%) are unaware they could be charged for mobile phones they’ve already paid for through their mobile contracts.

When a consumer picks up a new device through their contract with a telecom service provider, they get charged a monthly fee for that device. After combining that fee with the cost of making calls, sending texts, or using mobile internet connectivity, consumers get the full cost of the service. 

Dazed and confused

However, after paying off the device (for example, after a year, or two), their monthly expense for mobile phone service should be smaller. But it often isn’t. By not paying attention to the cost breakdown in the monthly bill, “millions of customers tied into classic contracts” with telecoms operators are at risk of overpaying for smartphones they already own, Virgin Media O2 concludes. 

The risk is more than theoretical, too, the company claims. Four in five consumers (81%) are currently out of contract and have been so for more than three months. More than a quarter (28%) are yet to take action regarding their contract that expired more than a year ago.

Furthermore, 55% of Brits don’t know how much they pay for their handset each month, while Citizens Advice claims 58% of the average monthly bill goes to paying for the smartphone. In other words - by being more diligent, consumers could save roughly 50% on their monthly mobile phone bill. 

At the same time, the majority of consumers (81%) said they would feel ripped off if they found they had been overpaid for their smartphone.

“Bamboozled Brits don’t realize they’re being taken for a ride by opaque, confusing and outdated mobile contracts,” argues Gareth Turpin, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Media O2. “Consumers are being kept in the dark about when they’ve paid for their phone so are spending millions of pounds buying their smartphones twice over.”

Sead Fadilpašić

Sead is a seasoned freelance journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes about IT (cloud, IoT, 5G, VPN) and cybersecurity (ransomware, data breaches, laws and regulations). In his career, spanning more than a decade, he’s written for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera Balkans. He’s also held several modules on content writing for Represent Communications.