Mobile phones - Unexpected charges

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It can be a huge shock – and often very costly - to find that you have incurred unexpected charges. Most companies now have a cap on data roaming whilst abroad and will text you to let you know, so that if you exceed a certain limit (usually €40), you will either be sent a text message or the service will be made unusable, unless you reactivate your account. However, not all companies do this, so you may still be hit by extremely high roaming charges. If you think you have been wrongly charged, or that the roaming charges are unfairly high, you should firstly contact the customer services department via resolver, and explain your concerns. You should do this in writing, and set out the problem that has arisen and the remedy you seek (waiving of the roaming charges).

International roaming charges

If you are travelling in Europe prices for mobile calls and data are limited.

  • Data: Capped at €0.20 (20p including VAT) per megabyte. This has fallen from €0.45/MB (46p including VAT).
  • Monthly data cap: The maximum you can be charged in one month for using data in the EU before it's cut off remains at €50 (£49 including VAT) – the level it's been at since 2010.
  • Outgoing calls: Capped at €0.19 (19p including VAT) per minute. This has fallen from €0.24/min (24p including VAT). Incoming calls: Capped at €0.05 (5p including VAT) per minute. This has fallen from €0.07/min (6p including VAT).
  • Texts: Capped at €0.06 (6p including VAT) per text. This has fallen from €0.08/text (8p including VAT).

Mobile operators have good tariff plans if you pre-agree before travelling. If you are travelling outside of the European Union then charges can be considerably higher and it is important that you ensure you are on a cost efficient tariff.

You should know
  • You have a 30-day time period to return faulty goods and receive a full refund
  • If you decide that you no longer want an item that you bought from a high-street retailer, you are not automatically entitled to a refund
  • Even if the product is covered by a manufacturer's warranty, your contract is with the retailer rather than the manufacturer; it is therefore their responsibility to resolve your issue
  • If the trader pointed out a defect at the time of the purchase, you are not entitled to a refund
  • If you paid by credit card and the amount was more than £100 and less than £30,000, the credit card company may be partly responsible for compensating you

I received a huge phone bill after a holiday abroad

As of June 2017, data roaming charges within the EU have been dropped. The new rules mean network providers will charge the same rates for calls, texts, and data in the EU as they would in the UK.

However, UK network providers differ in the number of countries they will be applying the new rules to. Variations will also occur depending on whether customers are on pay-as-you-go or on contracts. Exceeding text, minute and data allowances will still be chargeable.

We advise travellers to double check the rules with their network providers before using their phone abroad.

What if I no longer want the item?

If you have decided that you no longer want the goods, and you bought them from a high-street retailer or shop, you are not automatically entitled to a refund. The retailer may offer you a credit note so that you can purchase other goods, but they are not obliged to do this.

What if the goods are on sale?

Regardless of whether the goods are on sale, they should be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described. If there is an issue, you have the same rights as if you bought new or at full retail price, unless the fault was pointed out to you at the time of purchase. If the trader pointed out a defect at the time of the purchase, you are not entitled to a refund.

How long is the guarantee?

Your retailer will have a time-limited guarantee on the product, but even if it is outside of that time you may be able to claim. The law is ambiguous on what a guarantee is and what is deemed reasonable. Six months can be expected as a reasonable minimum, but you need to take into account a reasonable lifespan for the product, how much was paid for it and its overall quality.

Under the law, you have six years to take a claim to court for faulty goods, but after six months there is a shift of responsibility from the retailer to the consumer to prove responsibility of the issue. At this point, you may need to prove the problem existed when you purchased the goods and it has taken time for the issue to become apparent. You might also need to provide a report from an expert to support your claim.

Manufacturer warranty

If the retailer says the product is outside of its guarantee but there is a manufacturer warranty, it might ask you to contact the manufacturer directly. However, your contract is with the retailer and not the manufacturer: it is therefore the retailer's responsibility to resolve and rectify the issue.

If you paid by credit card

If you paid by credit card, and the amount was more than £100 and less than £30,000 (including VAT), you should contact your credit card company to see whether you are covered by ‘equal liability’ (sometimes called Section 75). This is very often the case, and simply means that your credit card provider is jointly responsible with the trader for compensating you when things go wrong.

Statutory minimum

The rights described here are the statutory minimum and some retailers may offer enhanced terms and conditions.

Phone unlocking

Buying your phone on a contract locks your handset to that network and some companies will charge to unlock your phone. From October 2016 phone unlocking charges have been scrapped for phones on a pay monthly contract. However, networks have different requirements for when a phone on a contract can be unlocked, such as having to see out your agreed contract first. Phones on pay-as-you-go may still be charged to be unlocked, depending on the network.

Can I send my case to an ombudsman?

The main ombudsman for the retail sector is provided by Ombudsman Services. There is also a Furniture Ombudsman, which is responsible for issues raised with a selected number of furniture and home-furnishing retailers.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Certified third-party mediators, called Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) providers, are available to all businesses to help when a dispute cannot be settled directly with the consumer. The system offers a quicker and cheaper way of resolving disputes than going via the courts. Once the internal complaint process is exhausted, businesses must give the consumer details of a certified ADR provider and tell the consumer if it is willing to use them. However, businesses do not have to use ADR unless they operate in a sector where existing legislation makes it mandatory, such as in financial services.

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