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Two's company, Three's unbowed: You Brits will pay more for MMS snaps

UK mobe network ups charges for sunshine selfie-takers, just in time for their hols

Mobile operator Three UK is celebrating the approach of British summer by, er, hiking its charges for some of its services.

A reader tipped off The Register to the changes at the CK Hutchison subsidiary, which will hit customers who go outside their allowance or who fancy a play on some of Three's additional services.

The increases apply to customers who joined or upgraded from 2014 (or 2015 for mobile broadband users) and apply from 18 June. Just in time for selfies in the sun.

Three, which claims 9.9 million customers in the UK, reported revenues of £2.4bn in 2017 with an average margin per user of £12.04.

Clearly those numbers were just not enough to keep shareholders happy.

Multimedia Messages (MMS) continue to be squeezed, with prices jumping 37.5 per cent from 40p to 55p to send that all-important picture of an avocado and sourdough toast breakfast. The cost of a MMS message leapt from 17.4p to 40p back in 2016, meaning that Three will have increased charges by a cool 216 per cent over the last two years.

The big-hearted telco suggests using a data service such as WhatsApp or Snapchat to fling pictures around the network. Three also warns that some phones might treat an emoji as an image, so that colon-dash-bracket smiley face sent to a significant other might turn into a frown, or something stickier, when the bill arrives.

Voicing concerns

The increases, which bring Three broadly into line with the likes of Vodafone as far as picture messaging is concerned, also hit voice services.

If you are old-school and use your phone to actually call someone for a chat, you'll see a 57 per cent hike in charges from 35p to 55p per minute if you've used up all your contract time for UK numbers.

Calling internationally becomes truly heart-stopping. Calls outside Europe are increasing to a flat £1.75 per minute, a 280 per cent increase from the current lower 46p rate. Again, Three suggests using data for such activities.

The network won't allow customers already tied into contracts to jump ship without a fight. "We don't consider the increase in the cost of Outside of Allowance calls to be a materially detrimental change to your contract," Three offered.

So if a customer would like to go elsewhere, they may be hit with a hefty cancellation fee.

Since Three is tinkering with charges that are outside of a customer's contract, anyone hoping to play the Ofcom (PDF) card is likely to be disappointed.

The policy may not as rigid as it appears, however, with Three responding to a query from El Reg: "Regular users of Outside of Allowance calls who are likely to suffer material detriment as a result of the price increase will be given the right to leave without charge, in line with our terms and conditions. Although, we expect that this will be less than 1,000 customers."

In the company's last financial report, chief exec Dave Dyson stated that the results reflected Three's commitment to "becoming the best-loved brand by our customers". The price hikes are unlikely to help it achieve that goal. ®

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