Customers need fair treatment with mobile tariffs

Mobile tariffs have never been the easiest to comprehend, and have now been made considerably more difficult by the need to accommodate smartphone data consumption.

Having just renewed several mobile phone contracts, I'm starting to realise that listening to the advice offered by mobile operators is at best near useless and, at worst, verges on the fraudulent.

Little effort was made by the "sales assistant" to understand what usage I might make of voice, texts or data, with the objective seemingly being to provide me with a tariff that exceeded by several factors my past usage.

In fairness, I played the role of being someone not hugely knowledgeable about smartphones and tariffs ("Not difficult,"  I hear you cry?), but any attempt to sell me the most appropriate deal was absent.

When asked about a particular advertised tariff (which from previous research I thought the most suitable), the response was that the SIM cards in the store wouldn't support this service.

This experience, albeit subjective and based upon a single retail outlet, might explain a recent report from BillMonitor, which is a mobile price comparison service accredited by the UK telecoms regulator, ofcom. The report found that 74 per cent of UK mobile subscribers are currently wasting on average £171 per year on the wrong contract. The report claims that, compared to the average UK annual bill of £422, this is equivalent to overspending by 40 per cent.

That seemingly equates to handsome profits for the retailer and operator, with BillMonitor speculating that the 47 million UK mobile subscribers are "wasting" nearly £6 billion each year by being on the wrong tariff.

In an effort to help potential users decide what might be the most appropriate deal for them, the company puts forward the idea that consumers broadly fall into one of 12 usage categories. These range from "mobile addict" through "big surfer" down to the infrequent "sweet and low" user.

Whilst the report accepts the likely difficulties of establishing which of these 12 might be the most fitting profile, its use by those selling mobile phone tariffs would be a giant step forward.

However, this ongoing disregard by operators for their customers screams for a more refined and user friendly approach if they are to convince users that they are providing the most appropriate tariff to fit their needs. --Paul