Virgin Media O2 study highlights overcharging for mobile handsets

Virgin Media O2
Virgin Media O2
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
21 April 2023

A major new study by Virgin Media O2 has revealed that millions of people in Britain are paying for phones they already own because they don’t fully understand their mobile bills.

93% of British people are unaware that they could be charged for phones that they’ve already paid for through their mobile contracts. Less than half of people are unclear when their contract ends ­– and without this information millions of customers tied into classic contracts with EE, Three and Vodafone are at risk of overpaying for smartphones they already own.

The practice of combining airtime costs for minutes, texts and data with the cost of the handset can lead to people paying more than the value of their smartphone. Many users receive little discount, if any, at the end of their contract and continue to be charged the same amount.

Image of two people using their phones while on the London Underground, on a red and blue Virgin Media O2 background
Virgin Media O2

Virgin Media O2’s study, the biggest of its kind, found that 81% of people currently out of contract have been for more than three months – and nearly 30% of people have taken no action despite their smartphone deal ending more than a year ago.

More than half of British people say they don’t know exactly how much they’re paying for their handset each month – even though, according to consumer charity Citizens Advice, more than half of the average monthly bill is taken up by the cost of the device. This means lots of people are spending money each month on mobile phones that they already own when out of contract.

Virgin Media O2 is the only mobile network operator to discount its combined contract bills for customers once they’ve paid for their handset by automatically moving them onto an airtime only plan, ensuring they never overpay for a phone they already own.

“With millions of customers from other operators stuck on contracts that force them to overpay for their smartphone, all too often in the mistaken belief it will save them money, we’re sounding the alarm on this smartphone swindle,” Gareth Turpin, chief commercial officer at Virgin Media O2, said. “Customers that buy from Virgin Media O2 will never overpay for their phone with bills automatically reduced when they’ve paid for their device – it’s simply the right thing to do.”

Visit Virgin Media O2 to find out more.