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Mobile phone providers grid

Campaign win! We worked with MPs and Peers to support an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill . The amendment was passed and the law has been changed, so all mobile phone providers need to give customers the option to put a cap on their monthly bills from October 2018. 

Based on best practice from across regulated markets, our charter [ 240 kb] contains five commitments to improve the debt collection practices of mobile phone providers. We are campaigning for providers to: 

  1. Direct their customers to sources of free debt advice and collaborate with debt advisers acting on their behalf. This includes establishing a dedicated phone line for debt advisers.

  2. Proactively make contact with customers who are experiencing payment difficulties.

  3. Make it easier for customers to contact providers about their bill and negotiate repayment rates which reflect their ability to pay.

  4. Suspend collection action when the customer reasonably disputes the debt.

  5. Help customers avoid debt by allowing them to set a cap on the monthly cost of their bills.

The below grid covers the six providers that met the criterion to be included in Ofcom’s Telecoms and Pay TV Complaints report for the first quarter of 2016. The criterion is a market share of 1.5% or more.  

Currently, mobile phone providers do not publically disclose their debt collection policies, and so the categorisation below is based on communication with each provider.

ProviderAdviceContactRepaymentsDisputesMonthly cap
EE Agreed  Agreed  Met  Met  Agreed
O2 Partial  Partial  Partial  Partial  Agreed
Tesco Mobile Partial  Agreed  No  Met  Met 
Three Mobile Partial  Met  Met  Met  Agreed
Virgin Mobile Partial  Partial  No  No  Agreed
Vodafone Agreed  Met Agreed  Met  Agreed

Key

Met Mobile provider has informed 
us that it already fulfils this section 
of the charter.
Agreed Mobile provider has informed 
us that it will implement this section 
of the charter. This will be 
reviewed on an ongoing basis.
Partial Mobile provider has informed 
us that it already fulfils some aspects 
of this section of the charter, 
or has agreed to fulfil some aspects.
No Mobile provider either: does not 
meet or agree to fulfil this section 
of the charter, or has not provided 
enough clarity on its position.

Explanatory Notes

In the below notes, ‘Pending’ means either this subclause has not been addressed in our communication with providers, or we are awaiting further details.

ExpandAdvice

We will direct our customers to sources of free debt advice and collaborate with advisers acting on behalf of our customers by:
a. Signposting people to sources of free debt advice via our website, on bills and other correspondence, and during conversations with customers who are in debt.
SupplierPosition
EE Met
O2 Met
Tesco Mobile Met
Three Mobile Met
Virgin Mobile Pending
Vodafone Agreed
b. Establishing a dedicated phone line so debt advisers can contact us to ask for information and negotiate on behalf of their clients.
SupplierPosition
EE Agreed
O2 Pending
Tesco Mobile No
Three Mobile Pending 
Virgin Mobile No
Vodafone Agreed

c. Developing forms of authority which allow advisers to a) gather information on clients’ debts for the purpose of putting together common financial statements, debt relief orders and other debt solutions, and b) negotiate repayment schedules on behalf of our clients.

SupplierPosition
EE Agreed
O2 Agreed
Tesco Mobile Met
Three Mobile Pending
Virgin Mobile Met
Vodafone Agreed

ExpandContact

We will proactively make contact with customers who are experiencing payment difficulties.

a. We will make multiple attempts to contact consumers who are behind on their bills before disconnecting them or engaging in further debt collection activity.

SupplierPosition
EE Met
O2 Met
Tesco Mobile Met
Three Mobile Met
Virgin Mobile Met
Vodafone Met
b. We will use this contact as an opportunity to gather more information about the customer's situation and ability to pay the amount under discussion.
SupplierPosition
EE Met
O2 Met
Tesco Mobile Met
Three Mobile Met
Virgin Mobile Pending
Vodafone Met

c. If during this initial contact a consumer provides evidence that they are making efforts to establish a repayment plan (either through a debt advice agency or a self help tool) we will give them ‘breathing space’ by suspending debt collection activity for 30 days.

SupplierPosition
EE Agreed
O2 Pending
Tesco Mobile Met
Three Mobile Met
Virgin Mobile Pending
Vodafone Met

ExpandRepayments

We will make it easy for customers to contact us about their bill and negotiate repayment rates which reflect their ability to pay.

a. Customers in debt will be able to make direct contact with someone who has the ability and authority to negotiate a repayment plan for their bill.

SupplierPosition
EE Met
O2 Met
Tesco Mobile No
Three Mobile Met
Virgin Mobile Pending
Vodafone Agreed
b. We will provide multiple contact channels for customers and allow consumers to send and receive relevant documents by both post and email.
SupplierPosition
EE Met
O2 No
Tesco Mobile No
Three Mobile Met
Virgin Mobile Pending
Vodafone Agreed

c. We will take individual customers circumstances and ability to pay into account when setting repayment rates.

SupplierPosition
EE Met
O2 Met
Tesco Mobile No
Three Mobile Met
Virgin Mobile Pending
Vodafone Agreed

d. When agreeing repayment plans, we will not insist on receiving substantial upfront payments before reconnecting customers.

SupplierPosition
EE Met
O2 Pending
Tesco Mobile No
Three Mobile Met
Virgin Mobile Pending
Vodafone Agreed

ExpandDisputes

We will suspend collection action when the customer reasonably disputes the debt:

a. If a customer is disputing the cause or amount charged we will suspend debt collection activity for the disputed amount until the case has been considered by an Alternative Dispute Resolution scheme.

SupplierPosition
EE Met
O2 Pending
Tesco Mobile Met
Three Mobile Met
Virgin Mobile No
Vodafone Met

ExpandMonthly Cap

We will help customers avoid debt by allowing them to set a cap on the monthly cost of their bills.

a. We will ask our customers if they want to set a limit on their monthly spending when they buy a contract.
b. Consumers will only be able to spend more than this limit with the explicit permission of the bill payer.

SupplierPosition
EE Agreed
O2 Agreed
Tesco Mobile Met
Three Mobile Agreed
Virgin Mobile Agreed
Vodafone Agreed

(Further to the Digital Economy Bill amendment, mobile operators must offer bill limits to all their customers from October 2018.)