Consumers are losing out when it comes to mobile phone deals because there are too many tariffs available, an investigation has found.
With an overwhelming one million plus deals on offer, people are often unable to find the best tariff for their needs, says the watchdog Consumer Focus. It is also concerned that “patchy information” about deals is leaving many people confused.
Its research found that two-thirds of consumers believe the mobile phone market is oversaturated.
"With 1.3 million deals on the market and packages offering different allocations of voice minutes, text messages and data allowances as well as bundled deals, it is no wonder consumers are bewildered,” says Audrey Gallacher, telecoms expert at Consumer Focus. “As a result, people often end up signing up for an unsuitable package and overspending.”
There is also wide-ranging confusion about the cost of calling landlines and other mobiles from a mobile phone.
Consumer Focus found that 75% of people believe they should be able to access essential services from a mobile at the same rate as from a landline, while 50% are unsure whether they will be charged for calling an 0800 number from their mobile.
“Millions of people now depend on their mobiles to access an ever-growing range of services, yet many have no idea if they are getting good value for money,” adds Gallacher.
Shopping around for a mobile phone is harder than it ought to be, the consumer watchdog says, with ‘hidden’ costs – including charges for accessing voicemail or for itemised paper bills – making comparison of tariffs near impossible.
Gaps in mobile network coverage are also a pressing problem for consumers, with many people unsure whether a network will work in their area before they buy.
Consumer Focus recommends people use Billmonitor, the only Ofcom-accredited price comparison website, when comparing mobile tariffs.