Yesterday evening Nigel Huddleston MP led an adjournment debate in Parliament on contracts in the Mobile Telecommunications Market.
Nigel’s speech was welcomed by the Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, Ed Vaizey MP, who said it was an ‘excellent speech’. Mr Vaizey recognised that there are low levels of trust in the mobile sector, with providers needing to improve customer service - and in response said:
· T The Government is committed to ensuring that consumers have a consistent, simplified experience when switching, and want to legislate for that, with the aim of introducing, across the board, processes in which the gaining provider leads the switch, and customers have less contact with the provider that they are leaving.
· The Government is committed to making sure that 90% of the UK’s land mass would have a decent mobile signal by 2017- and further work is being done by OFCOM and the government on making sure a process for redress is in place if the signal coverage claimed by an operator proved unacceptable to the user.
· The Government want providers to ensure that billing and charges are clear by breaking down the separate elements of a bill, recognising that separating the various charges – such as a handset vs text, call or data limits - would make it easier to inform consumers.
During the course of the debate, Nigel highlighted many statistics about the mobile telecommunications market, informing the house that:
· About 95% of UK adults have a mobile phone, and we have one of the highest smartphone adoption rates in the world at 75%.
· Just 35% of consumers trust their mobile phone operators, and of the top 100 brands for customer service in the UK, only one of those operators is in the top 50. The level of trust for mobile operators is, on average, lower than for banks.
· 70% of consumers are on the wrong contract for their needs, and that is costing the British public up to £5.4 billion a year more than necessary. In other words, the average UK household could save around £160 a year by choosing a more suitable tariff.
· More than half the UK population have never changed their carrier, and only 6% change carriers or switch each year—that figure is down from 9% a couple of years ago.
· Only a third of price comparison sites contain the best available deals.
Particularly focusing on the issues of switching, Nigel said,
“Anyone who has ever tried to switch from one mobile phone operator to another knows that it is a difficult task. The current process requires consumers to almost simultaneously contact their existing provider to terminate their current contract, while getting their desired provider to activate their new one. That is time-consuming and is often so confusing that many people simply give up and do not bother.”
“I ask the Minister and regulators to put more power back in the hands of mobile customers, and I ask mobile operators to do the right thing by their customers and avoid unnecessary regulation and legislation.”