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Patricia Gibson MP, SNP Spokesperson for Consumer Affairs, has demanded that government approved regulator The Office of Communications (Ofcom) and the UK Government itself, act to protect consumers by ensuring mobile phone providers reduce the monthly bill of any customers who remain in a contract past the end of a fixed deal to reflect the handset’s cost. Patricia was speaking after a study by Citizens Advice found three of the four largest mobile phone providers - Vodafone, EE and Three - continued to charge customers extra for handsets after they had been paid off as part of their fixed deal. Mobile phone users often have a contract with the new handset cost included in the overall price of the fixed term deal, with the majority paid off monthly over two years. At the end of the contract, consumers can choose to remain with their network on the same contract, taking out a new one or switching to another provider. Citizens Advice found that some networks overcharge loyal customers an average £22 a month and up to £38 for contracts with high-spec handsets such as the iPhone 7, Galaxy S8 or Xperia XZ Premium and warned that consumers could find themselves paying £46 a month extra for the iPhone8 256GB model. Said Patricia:

“Citizens Advice must be commended for their work in exposing this rip-off of loyal customers by some of the UK’s largest mobile phone providers. It is unacceptable that customers are paying unsuspectingly for mobile phones they have already bought. That the over 65s are particularly vulnerable to this is of great concern. “I have written to the Chief Executives of each of the big three companies concerned asking them to immediately end this sharp practice. I have also contacted both the UK Government and Ofcom urging them to ensure that this overcharging is immediately discontinued.” Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy added: “Some of the largest mobile phone providers routinely overcharge customers for handsets that they have already paid for and it’s especially concerning that older customers are more likely to be stung by this. “Providers should make it much easier for consumers to compare prices by separating out the cost of handsets from the cost of services like data and minutes for all contracts, that way it would be much clearer what they're paying for.” The study found that people aged over 65 were the most likely to be caught out, with 23% on a handset-inclusive deal remaining on it for more than a year after their fixed contract expired, compared with 13% of under-65s. In total, 36% of people with a handset-inclusive mobile phone contract remained on it beyond the fixed period, 19% for more than six months.

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