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Monday, 14 February, 2000, 12:21 GMT
Are mobile phones a rip-off?
Practically everyone you see these days, from businessmen to schoolchildren, has a mobile phone.
Not surprisingly sales are through the roof, but so are the amount of complaints about them. Poor after-sales service has put the mobile phone firmly in the top 10 of complaints to the Office of Fair Trading.
Are you happy with your mobile phone, or is it more trouble than it's worth? Have you received shoddy customer care - left hanging on the line waiting for someone to sort out your complaint? Send us your views and experiences.
I signed up for a mobile phone and it didn't arrive until three weeks after the due date. I had to contact the couriers and was told lies as to when it would arrive. I was then billed twice for, once for a phone I did not have. They refused to accept my cancellation of the phone - they are still sending me bills despite me having proof that they have had the phone returned. They have proved to be impossible to contact by email, fax or phone (although the sales department seems to be well staffed. The company runs on the BT network and has persuaded me never to get such a mobile phone again! The problem with this industry is that there are too many cowboys - many of whom have contracts with respectable companies who will be tarred by the same brush!
Mobile phone charges in the United States are quite reasonable. While you do pay for incoming calls, plans are available so that unless you are the heaviest of mobile phone users, the amount of time you spend on the phone is always within the allotment of minutes. With AT&T, the network in the north-east US is built up incredibly, there is no roaming throughout the US, and for $5 a month, all incoming and outgoing calls are free on weekends and evenings for all calls made within the US. Plus calling a mobile phone costs no more than calling any other phone, and when you are calling someone who is in your area code, it is usually a free call. Mobile phones are a rip-off, but only in Europe.
Is there anything more ridiculous in the whole wide world than a load of primary kids with mobile phones. They were everywhere this Christmas but now most have disappeared as they have no money to buy cards. HEE HEE!!!!
Alasdair Cameron, Scotland
Why is it kids as young as 7 have a mobile? Are they boring? When I was seven we ran around and played football. Nowadays, you get on a bus, at least one phone rings on a twenty minute journey. I can understand many people needing them, if they drive a car, in case they break-down, why do school kids need to phone their friends even when they are the other side of the playground? Who pays for it? They are too young to work, it must be their parents. What will be next, Laptop Computers or Palmtops?
Richard Dixon, England
Most people seem to be annoyed about mobile phones and the networks they are on. I agree that there is a major problem with regards to the level of service provided by the various networks, the phones themselves can be a godsend though. When you breakdown in the middle of nowhere on a dark road and are miles from home, a mobile phone means that you don't have to leave the car and search for a pay phone. People moan about phones having bad signals and are always crackling, but its better to be able to speak to someone on a bad line than not be able to speak at all.
Barry White, England
I moved to the UK last year from Ireland. I still have an Irish mobile, but use a One2One mobile on Precept 120 now. In the last 12 months I have probably spent over £2000 on these 2 phone bills alone - I still have £500 outstanding in Ireland. Anyway, One2One's pricing is very competitive for business users and you get cheap national and international calls. I am running a small business as well as studying at college, so a mobile is essential, and I don't have a landline in my room in my hall of residence. I am an export agent for wholesalers of mobile phones, so mobiles are my business! I believe that in the next 12 months with the introduction of WAP, mobile Internet and mobile e-commerce, the charges for voice calls will have to come down.
John Reynolds, UK
The biggest rip off going is that calling from a fixed phone to a mobile generally costs many times as much as making an identical call in the reverse direction - it's using exactly the same "lines", the only difference is that outgoing call charges are a big selling point for the mobile phone companies, but incoming charges are not. Orange claim to give great customer service, and offer to match any other network's tariffs. However, when they wrote to me saying "now you can save 20% on international calling costs compared to BT," they neglected to mention that this didn't apply if you were using another network's tariff, and instead they would charge rip-off prices.
Dave Riley, UK
I must disagree with the comment about how good Orange in. They lied to me about insurance so now I am committed to paying £60 a year for something I don't want. And the coverage in Scotland is abysmal.
I've had my mobile phone for almost three months and it's been unreliable. The service has not been good either. It's been dropping call. The numeric paging does not work. The fee structure; however, is favourable. Hoping for better times ahead.
Mohammad Rafii, USA
We think that mobile phones are buzzin' and that you can send loads of buzzin' text messages to people, if they run out well you just buy another one, only £10, stop whinging!!!
Amy Nuttall+Zara Roberts, Wales
What really annoys me about mobile phones is the criminal waste. If you buy a phone on a 1-year contract then at the end of the year, unless you want to pay twice as much for the same service you have to buy another package which includes another phone. This means that the perfectly good phone you already have is useless. I'm told that to replace the phone, if I lost it, would cost hundreds of pounds, yet you are positively encouraged to throw it away every year. There should be an incentive to keep your phone by being able to buy just the smart card, for whatever system/tarrif, at a reduced price if you keep your existing phone. It's only a small handful of business people and a large handful of poseurs who need the latest phone.
Compared with other countries, the UK mobile pricing and competition is actually very good. In the US on some phones you even pay to receive calls per minute! Personally, as long as you pick the correct tariff for your requirements, then you really can save money on calls... buy make sure you pick the right one, otherwise you could pay a lot more.
I bought my mobile phone second hand, and so I own it. What I cannot understand is why I have to pay £17.50 per month with a monthly contract (i.e. subsidise the cost of my own phone) when I own it already. My only other alternative is to get a new contract (on a year up front scheme) and therefore a new number (as number portability within the same network is not allowed) each year.
Alec Edworthy, UK
You poor people in the UK! My mobile phone cost me about £150 a year and a half ago. Incoming calls are free. Outgoing calls average about £0.30 per minute. I pay no monthly rental. There are three major companies here, one of them is the UK company Orange. They all make very respectable profits by offering an affordable service which many people use. Over half the adult population here has a mobile phone.
David Olesker, Israel
I think that psychologists should come up with a new mental illness, called "Telecommunications addiction". The use of Tech for the sake of keeping up with the latest tech. I know scores of people who needlessly use high tech items, cell phones instead of conventional phones, pagers and e-mail instead of just calling someone, etc. I know one business associate who tells people to call him on his cell phone, even when he's at his desk and a perfectly fine conventional phone is two feet away! Unless you're a doctor, policeman or some other civil service individual you probably don't "need" a cell phone at all, it's mostly vanity and laziness.
Steve Kenney, USA
Unfortunately, one has to admit that life is much easier with mobile phones. However, complaints will always surface, as it happens with any service. And as it happens in technology, complaints are more intense during periods of higher prices; as technology becomes more mature, costs drop and prices fall while quality increases. We can complain all we want about our mobiles, but the message is that if one hates to complain, one should forfeit the service. I do not think that this idea will find many supporters, even among the... chief naggers.
Ulysses Christodoulou, USA
My wife and I wouldn't be without ours but we don't pay a lot for them! We paid the year's line rental to own a half-decent model (Eriksson GA628) and now we just buy a sim-card every year. Currently we're with Vodaphone and paid £40 for a year's prepaid line rental along with 500 free minutes of off peak calls a month!! We now use these instead of a landline and use a handsfree to prevent brain frying!
Julian Morris, England
Reading all these 'downed network' scare stories makes me glad I went with Orange. They really are the top dogs and I would recommend them to anyone buying a mobile phone, pre-pay or otherwise, there really is no alternative!
I am 21 and I have a mobile phone. I am working and hardly at home so if anybody wants to contact me they can. Usually I send a couple of messages a day. That's it! With the possibility of 2-3 very short calls a month and I pay £30 plus for this!
Who cares? If some people want to shell out hand over fist just to play ridiculous electronic "tunes" and tell everybody within a 20m radius that, "I'm on the train", let them go ahead...
The line rental is more than a conventional phone, it costs you more to make calls, and it costs other people more to call you. Half the time you either can't get a signal at all or the line is so bad you can't understand a word being said to you. Plus you get your brain cooked. I think that counts as a rip-off, don't you?
I can understand people complaining about the price of calls, but I assume they are mostly making mobile to mobile calls which obviously cost a great deal more than to land-lines. If you are complaining about paying 1-2p per minute 4 off-peak calls, then perhaps you want the mobile phone companies to run a charity. And if you are paying any more then you should look around b4 you sign.
In my case, I make extensive use of mobile to mobile calls to the tune of £100+ per month, but I am so dependent on the instant communication aspect that I think it is value for money. Perhaps it is just my sphere of friends and colleagues or because of the region I live in, but I would estimate more like 95% of people I know have mobile phones, and about 40% could not function or conduct business without one. Surely if you have so many complaints about mobile companies, either get rid of the phone or make a big issue of their service and do something about it.
Richard Sugden, UK
Not that I want to give Virgin Mobile any free advertising but I've read a lot of complaints about 'pay as you go' having contracts and consequently being a rip off. I have a Virgin phone, 79 quid, 10 quid insurance per year, 15p max cost per call to a landline phone, free voicemail and it vibrates!
AND NO OTHER CHARGES! If I don't have any credit left on my phone I can still get incoming calls, and you don't have to top unless you want to use the phone! I really don't work for Virgin but I think this may be what some of the people above are asking for. (If Virgin are reading this¿do I win a prize?)
Mark Faulkner, England, UK
People in the large European countries are lucky in that they can move considerable distances and stay on the their home network. If I drive ten minutes in any direction, I am in another country and my phone is roaming. As a result, my bill is almost enough to keep the MIR space station flying for a month.
The European Union Monopolies commission really should be taking a long hard look at the roaming charges in Europe, particularly now that we are seeing mergers and acquisitions between some of the big European companies. Otherwise, the exorbitant charges at the moment are going to hold back the development of new technologies like WAP.
Daniel Tomson, Luxembourg
Not only are they intrusive but are the celebration of marketing hype over common sense. If land phones collapsed or failed to connect at the rate of mobiles there would be an outcry.
I recently upgraded my Vodafone. Vodafone could not supply the model I needed and recommended a national retailer. I paid £20 for my telephone. Image my surprise when £22 started being debited from my bank account. On enquiring with the payee, I was told it was for 'insurance'. I am an insurance adviser - I do not buy other people's insurance. Apparently the retailer wanted me to pay £22 per quarter for a telephone that cost me £20 and I already had the spare that I'd just upgraded! No way would I have bought that insurance and no way was it explained to me - I didn't even get a copy of the standing order unlike all the other documentation which was supplied. Perhaps all you readers could let me know if I have had a one-off unfortunate experience or is this rip-off rife?
There is no such thing as a free lunch - each user is expected to provide at least the capital cost of their phone in revenue each year, allowing the phone companies to 'give' them away. Anyone keeping their phone longer, or making 'more than average' calls is just pure profit. The phone manufacturers like it, 'cos there is no incentive for us users to keep our phone for more than a year, and they can sell more. It's like the UK car market - why should the operators and manufacturers change the system as long as we keep buying them?
I use my mobile for business and personal uses. In fact I no longer use a landline at home. I think my telephone costs are very reasonable: I paid my mobile rental up front for 12 months and got a big discount, I have no quarterly landline charge, off-peak charges are cheap and it is not too expensive for others to call me (from a BT phone to my Cellnet mobile). Most importantly though my phone makes me look incredibly cool! Those who complain about people using their phones on trains must admit that they are just incredibly jealous!!
Will Ashby, UK
I have discovered over the last three months that it is very unusual that I can get through to anyone in the evenings on my Orange phone except another Orange user. I made many complaints to Orange, they admit that they do not have enough lines for the amount of users, so the whole system grinds to a halt every weekday evening, and they finally gave me a months line rental free. If this happened on the BT network there would be a public outcry. If I cannot use my phone in the evenings it is useless to me, however I am stuck with them until my contract runs out, then I'm changing to Virgin Mobile.
Alec Brown, UK
If you think mobile service prices in the UK are absurd, then perhaps you should see what it is like in Egypt, Awful service and extremely high prices.
In Northern Ireland the Cellnet network has been downed three times in the last month with no explanation given. I find that when mobile phones are so expensive that the network should be able to cope with an increased workload. After all it coped with the Millennium Hype. I think that pre-pay is still the best option available for anyone thinking of purchasing a mobile - very convenient and no need for cards.
Andrew Cromwell, UK/Northern Ireland
By Philip Jeremy's logic, fixed line phone users should have to pay for receiving a call from abroad. You pay more to ring a mobile as you are paying for the privilege of calling someone on the move, just like you pay more to call someone in another country. As for mobile being status symbols, its hard to see how they can be given that so many people have one (over 10million in the UK). Among some people I know it is actually a status symbol NOT to have a mobile as it says that you are important enough not to be bothered. Who knows?
Andrew Miles, UK
My partner and I have both had mobile phones from Orange for over a year now. Mine has gone wrong once and they replaced it within 2 days, apart from that we have had no other problems. The customer service is normally quick and easy to use. We both have talk plans which suit our needs perfectly. The all inclusive cost averages out at £25 per month per phone. OK, the phones are pretty basic, but they do what I need them to do. Overall I am satisfied that I get what I pay for.
With land lines the phone set is sold separately from the connection to the network. If mobile phones were sold in the same way removing the possibility of subsidising a phone by the cost of calls then the whole system would be a lot simpler.
Glyn Armstrong, England
Mobile phones are rubbish and are generally owed by people who have no friends and who feel the need to look busy on the train, checking their phones every two seconds to make sure that no-one has called, whilst annoying everyone else. Being accessible seems to make people feel important, strange. (unless its vital for work, but aren't they all) "Hello, yes I'm on the train, yeah, see you in two minutes" rip off
BT Cellnet has appalling customer service. I ordered a Pay as you Go phone as a Christmas present for my younger brother. It eventually arrived 2 weeks later with no apology. They had even taken my money before they had even sent the phone out. Now nearly a month after I complained I am still waiting for a reply. In my opinion they are not interested in you as a customer but just the colour of your money.
Andrew Cartwright, UK
Yes mobile phones are still a rip-off because the Nokia 9110 communicator which I'd like to buy but the price is far too expensive. I'm deaf person and the 9110 can use with email, typetalk service (later this year), etc.. But the price of Nokia 9110 is £289.99 that's still rip-off. Networks are too expensive as well and the call price should be cut down.
If you think the UK is bad for charges, then visit Belgium, where a new telephone that is currently free in the UK would cost you nearly £200 here, where there is no policy of subsidising handset costs. Then the tariffs are no better than the UK (and sometimes worse, with very little per-second billing, for instance).
Martin Commons, Belgium
What price would you put on convenience and piece of mind? Exactly you can't! This is why I think I think that mobile phones are value for money because if I was running late for example it would only take one quick call to be sorted so it makes you feel secure in a way.
I think that Mobile phone companies know this and so they could really charge whatever prices they wanted and still be in great demand because we are in an age now where a mobile phone is an essential part of everyday life for a lot of people.
As a frequent roamer in Europe one of the most objectionable costs I have to pay is when someone rings my mobile and gets the answering service when I am roaming. Not only do they charge me for the diverted leg of the call back to the answering service in the UK I also have to pay international call rates to pick up the message. That means the original caller pays for the call and I pay for it as an international call twice! Money for old rope.....
Mark Thomas, UK
What Kazam Bokhari, UK fails to mention is that although some phones are £9.99 (usually £70 for a decent phone) is that they are heavily subsidised and they regain the money through contract fees/line rental etc. So they are not really cheap. Also I have had nothing but trouble from Mobile phone companies with aftersales. Poor returns policies, very poor security from Orange Just Talk in my experience.
Craig Diment, UK
I am living abroad for a few months and while I find charges in the UK fairly reasonable, the prices I have to pay to make and receive calls over here, is a joke.
Anna, Germany (UK)
As with most modern technology, you are paying for convenience and time saving. Most people don't really need a mobile 100% of the time, so they can hardly complain about paying for them.
L Wood, England
In Korea mobile phones are a way of life for all. There are now more mobile phones here than conventional phones. The noise from the different rings makes life commuting or time in the office unbearable. Is this the future for the UK?
Ian Justice, South Korea
I wanted one for my wife in case of emergencies. "Pay as you talk", just the job. BUT you still have to pay rent. How can that be pay as you talk?
My daughter lost her phone a few weeks ago and I called One2one to advise them, and deactivate the line. They kept me waiting for 15 minutes before answering and when I told them that I would not pay for any calls made by someone else during that 15-minute period they said that I was liable for these costs. I was flabbergasted - why should I pay for calls made by someone else when it was One2one's delay in answering my call that allowed them to do so? I had just the previous week heard about a guy (on Radio 4) that had been liable to pay about £300 for overseas calls made by the thief during a similar delay caused.
Steve Boland, UK
Have you been to the Gambia...Poor in most respects but with a fantastic Cellphone Coverage....WHY?
Darren Bramley, UK
I have BT Cellnet Pay As You Go and even if I have £20 left on I still have to put more money in after 3 months.
Chris Royston, England
Why are fixed line users still getting ripped off when phoning a mobile? It shouldn't cost us any more than phoning another fixed line phone - the mobile user should pay the extra. If Vodafone can spend billions on take-overs then don't expect fixed-line users to foot the bill - but of course Oftel seems to be the weakest of the utilities watch dogs and always rolls over when it comes to mobile phone companies.
Philip Jeremy, UK
When I was growing up I used to dream about having a Dick Tracy / Get Smart communications system. Now I have one although somehow it's not as much fun as I imagined it would be.
Keith McWhae, Australia
Having a mobile phone has become an essential thing in life. You can contact somebody and be contacted wherever you are. On the other hand it is like fashion. Every day a new model is being launched. Therefore in near future we will use a mobile phone for 3 mounts and throw it into the dustbin. Like we do so our computers etc. and the world is going to become full of technology rubbish.
Levent Erdogan, Turkey
Vodafone is now the country's biggest company and it achieves this with a smaller customer base than BT. You don't get that big by giving away your product. People see the pre-pay phone as a bargain, take it to Europe and ask someone to call you. The person calling you pays the cost of a mobile call (i.e. not cheap), then you foot the cost of the call from the UK to Europe and finally you pay a cost to the European provider. If you happen to be in Germany at the time with a Vodafone unit (and connected to the Mannesman provider) Vodafone get paid three times for you to receive a call.
Roy Chapman, UK / Germany
I recently ditched my mobile phone. The cost was absurd compared with a conventional phone and more often than not the person I was trying to call had their phone switched off anyway. Too often I couldn't get a signal or was cut off in mid-call. Mobile phones? I'd rather have a carrier pigeon!
Nigel Dawes, UK
For anyone wanting to buy a phone, firstly before you go into a shop, buy one of the magazines available in most newsagents, they will inform you of the latest products and all the latest prices.....and all the ways to save the headache afterwards. For everyone's information Analogue was the old system and GSM digital (which has been around for about 4-5 Years) is here to stay....Well, for the next 2-3 years until the 3rd Generation System will be fully operational. There are some large retailers in the UK who know what they are doing and ONLY sell mobile phones, try going to one of them.
The globalisation of mobile communications has seen a lot of competition in NZ. Prepay seems a bit of a con, with airtime calls being more expensive than their 'contractual' equivalent. SMS Messaging is very cheap, and due to the competition, land-lines have offers on $10 all you can talk (UKS3.00!). So when Mobile deals such as this become more widespread, then I'll think about using Mobile phone to talk to friends and family in the UK!
Gary Copper, UK in New Zealand
Having refused to have a mobile for years, l bought one last year and now couldn't imagine life without it. The only problem is that with latest explosion in sales of mobiles, the networks haven't got the infrastructure in place to come with the demand, especially at peak times.
Geoff Trimm, UK
Roaming charges in Europe are extortionate, and there needs to be legislation to reduce or remove them if Europe is to remain competitive with the USA, especially in mobile computing. I live on the border between France and Switzerland, and every body here has to carry two phones, one for each country, because it is simply far too expensive to allow one phone to roam in the neighbouring country. I have been following the Vodafone/Mannesman battle with some interest to see if there is any talk of abolishing roaming charges at least between the UK and Germany once both networks are owned by one company. Somehow, I doubt that the charges will be reduced - the money is more likely to end up in their pockets.
Richard Tomlinson, France
Mobile phone definitely helped in the recent past. But it has left to many problems too. Some measures are required for the proper use of mobile phones. Should they be allowed while driving the car? I hope there will be measures for correction.
Dr. Yusuf Azmi, USA
No complaints they are the best things since hot dinners, Pre Pay of course. I feel safe while out walking.
M K Teague, Netherlands
Mobile phones are growing in the same way computers have been growing - everyone wants one without thinking why, and the technology changes faster than people understand - new models come out and you can't get spares for your old one - so you have to upgrade - another expense! I'm lucky in that my company pays for me to have a mobile as I have to be in touch, but if I had to pay there's no way I'd have one - there all alternatives! It's the same with cars - you can always find a cheaper, better way!
Jools Lemon, UK
I have worked in the wireless industry for the last twelve years on both sides of the Atlantic. Like any emerging technology you need to shop around and you need to consider the future. What do you want a phone to do? Make/receive calls, wake you up in the morning, or browse the internet? Shop reputable retailers. Don't buy "the best deal" buy the one that makes the most sense for your needs, including coverage cost of operation, and possible future obsolescence. Like any consumer electronic product there will be advances in technology. You may decide that you want to take advantage of those new features. This comes with a price tag of course. Simply put, a smart wireless purchase is not necessarily the cheapest.Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
After working for the largest mobile phone retailer in the UK, I am surprised to see that so many people complain about the prices. Little do they realise that the actual handset they but might be a mere £9.99 but in fact can cost upped £200.
kazam bokhari, UK
Mobile phones are great. They are so convenient and now they are so light and compact you hardly know they are there. They also keep my wallet light as well.
Nick Bradley, UK (US)
I bought a digital mobile phone 6 months ago, but within 3 months, it had died. I was forced to leave it with Vodaphone, who set me a new phone in January! Worse still, the second one did not work either, so they sent it off again, and gave me a third phone which is going fine at the moment. Generally, I am not very impressed with the attitude of Vodaphone. They have annoyed me further because I use a 'pay as you talk' version, and so while my phone was in the service place, I lost a lot of credit. Why can't they sort out these problems more efficiently?
A. Fraser, UK
I have a Nokia 5110 and have had this phone for around 14months without any problems whatsoever, customer service from the CPW has been very high. However when I went to change tariffs this year I was told that even though I had my own phone, the same line rentals would apply etc. Thus disproving the providers claims that rentals and charges are as high as they are because phones are being subsidised. I have my own phone therefore requiring no subsidy towards its cost. Why then the same charges? So reliability and customer service from phone, provider and shop are great but it's the charges that leave me wondering who is ripping us off.
I think that most people with cell phones deserve whatever problems they encounter. They have become nothing but sad status symbols in the last couple of years. There are only a few kinds of people in the world who should own these phones, people on call, people who drive long distances and may need them for safety reasons or children only as a way for parents to keep a tab on them. Aren't people tired of being that tied into the world yet?
Shawna Lisk, USA
Never again will I complain about the mobile system and costs in the UK. Having recently relocated to the US where it is common practice to pay more than 20p a minute for incoming calls (that's right, you pay when someone calls you!) far from being a rip-off I believe that the UK services are a bargain.
Yes, they are a rip-off. I haven't got one, and I don't need one.
Andy Brown, England
Cell phones has its place in society, for example in business. But for the casual person, it is only an extra source of frustration and diversion. There tends to always be a phone available somewhere near if you really need to make a call. I found it humorous that many people I know hear their cell phone ring, check to see who it is and then, simple ignore it. What is the point?
Alex Joel, USA
You should consider yourself lucky in the UK. When I was living in the UK I had an Orange phone and I could make calls with it. You'd be very lucky if you can do that here in California where even major cities like LA have very poor coverage. I've had one mobile phone for 3 weeks and I'm yet to be able to make a call on it! I'm not exaggerating! And I live in a built up residential area. The British mobile phone system is way ahead of the US one.
Dan Piponi, US
I bought an analogue phone a mere 18 months ago. Recently the battery died completely and I went to get it replaced only to be told that such batteries were no longer generally available. If I wanted one I would have to order it and pay nearly as much again as the original price of the phone. Then the salesman added that of course, if I wished, I could always purchase a brand new digital one! I had no choice but to do so but I am wondering how long this one will last and how much more money it is going to cost me in addition to the astronomical price of the calls.
Mark Verth, UK
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