This article is more than 1 year old STILL won't pop a cap on stolen mobile bills

Brits still paying for mobe thieves' texts and calls

Brits who have their mobes stolen are still facing shock bills, despite government promises that charges would be capped in a similar way to stolen credit cards.

The Citizens Advice watchdog said that as many as 160,000 victims of phone crime were forking out up to £4m a year to pay for thieves’ texting and calls, although they could have saved at least £120,000 of that this year if bills were capped.

A year ago, Blighty’s government and mobile phone providers said they would stick a cap on stolen mobe bills by early spring this year.

However, the charity said continued delays on that promise have left folks reporting to Citizens Advice charges from £160 all the way up to massive £23,000, between April and November this year.

“Victims of phone crime are at the mercy of financially devastating bills," said Gillian Guy, chief exec of the charity, in a statement. "Innocent people are being made to pay for phone bills run up by thieves despite a promise from phone providers and the government to cap costs. Demands to pay tens of thousands of pounds have pushed some victims of crime into the red."

“The injustice of shock bills for phone crime victims must end. Citizens Advice is calling on the government to stand up for consumers and cap bills from lost or stolen phones at £50 to protect the worst hit," she added.

"Instead of waiting for victims of crime to get in touch, phone companies could improve their systems so they consistently check for tell-tale signs of theft, such as a large number of calls to high cost phone lines," said Guy.

In December last year, culture secretary Maria Miller announced that the government and the four major mobe providers - EE, Vodafone, Virgin Media, and Three - had agreed to cap bills on phones that were reported stolen, as well as stopping mid-contract price rises and helping to eliminate roaming charges by 2016.

“We are ensuring hardworking families are not hit with shock bills through no fault of their own,” said Miller at the time.

However, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport told The Reg Friday that it was working on the caps.

“Mobile phone networks have agreed to cap bills for phones that have been reported lost or stolen. Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey will be meeting mobile network operators shortly to confirm details of the liability caps they will offer,” a spokesperson said by email.

Ofcom estimates that the average bill on a lost or stolen phone is around £65, but Citizens Advice said that in some cases the crooks can rack up huge bills in just a few hours by calling premium rate phone lines.

In one case, a punter on his hols in Spain had his phone pick-pocketed on the first night of his break. When he repeatedly tried to report the theft to his phone company’s customer service team, he kept getting cut off, racking up the phone call charges as he went.

By the time he got home, the thief had lumbered him with £600 in charges, which his provider insisted he pay. ®

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