updated 03:34 pm EST, Tue December 3, 2013
Capped bills for stolen phones, early termination clauses in new agreement
Customers of mobile phone networks in the United Kingdom will be better protected from high bills after their phone is lost or stolen. EE, Virgin Media, Vodafone, and Three have all signed up to a government agreement that will, among other obligations, place a cap of £50 ($82) on the customer's liability for usage from the time the phone is reported as stolen.
The cap initiative will kick in for customers from spring 2014, with The Register also reporting that Talk Talk, Sky, and BT have also signed up and accepted the agreement. The same proposals asks for mobile, landline, and broadband customers to be protected from mid-contract price rises, by providing the option to leave early without penalty if such a situation arises. The companies have agreed to work with the government and Ofcom, though the regulator has already put forward proposals to allow for early contract terminations.
A third element asks for the telecommunications industry in the country to work with Ofcom and the government to develop a "UK Government Position" on roaming charges, with the aim of eliminating them across Europe entirely. While the European Commission is already working on such a proposal, the agreement seeks for the removal of roaming charges within the European Union by 2016, accompanied by "appropriate safeguards to prevent abuse" and to encourage carriers to invest further in their networks.
"Families can be left struggling if carefully planned budgets are being blown away by unexpected bills from a stolen mobile or a mid-contract price rise," said culture secretary Maria Miller, continuing "This agreement with the telecoms companies will deliver real benefits to consumers and help ensure people are not hit with shock bills."
O2, a major carrier in the UK, has not agreed with the deal. A spokesperson told The Register that the company could not sign up due to the section on mid-contract price rises. It asks for "clarity on Ofcom's recently published guidance on price rises" before signing up to the agreement.