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Mobile users to get protection against phone thieves who rack up huge bills

Mobile phone owners who have their handset stolen will no longer need to dread the day of reckoning when their bill arrives. Four of the UK’s mobile operators, EE, Virgin Mobile, Vodafone and Three have agreed to limit the amount a customer will be charged if their phone is stolen and extra charges have been racked up.

Stolen phones will no longer result in shocking bills.

Until now, customers on mobile phone contracts have been expected to foot the bill if their handset is stolen, even though they have no means of controlling the additional charges being racked up against them. In some cases, bills can reach hundreds of pounds as thieves call premium-rate numbers, make overseas calls and rack up huge data costs for web use.

The phone operators’ change of heart came after they met with Culture Secretary Maria Miller to discuss ways to give customers more protection. New guidelines, expected to come into force in the spring, will cap the amount a contract customer has to pay if their phone is stolen. The amount bills will be capped at has not yet been announced, though The Telegraph suggests it’s likely to be £50. This would be in line with the maximum credit card customers have to pay if their card is stolen and additional charges are accrued.

The planned bill cap is intended to reduce the anxiety at how high a customer’s bill might be if they’re unfortunate enough to have their phone stolen. It also recognises that the customer has no control over additional charges accrued when the phone isn’t in their possession.

There are certain conditions to be met to ensure you’re protected. For example, you’ll need to know the IMEI number of your phone’s SIM and you’ll need to report the theft within a certain time frame. Ofcom offers advice on what to do if your phone is stolen and the numbers to call to report the theft to your operator.

-Rosemary Hattersley



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