Tablet, Mobile Phone, Laptop, 4G TV with 3 different subscriptions and internet access. That’s a list of my own telecommunication devices, subscriptions and monthly costs that enable me to keep fully involved and interacting effectively with what is happening in the world. It’s a shopping list that seems to grow in length with every passing year as new technology develops and the ways in which we communicate.
With this ever-expanding list comes growing costs and concerns regarding consumers’ value for money. Are we being taken for granted by the telecommunications service providers we are becoming more and more reliant on?
I remember the first-ever phone that I received as a teenager. It was a Christmas present from my parents, had polyphonic ringtones and two games that could be played on the small analogue screen. At the time I thought it was the bee’s knees! Text messages were created by repeatedly tapping on the individual number keys to compose words, meaning it could take up to half an hour to include all the crucial details when gossiping with a friend!
This is a far cry from the technology that we have available today. With regular handset upgrades being offered on mobile contracts, pressure applied on consumers to sign up for lengthier contracts and more extensive television and broadband packages to choose from, it has never been more important to ensure that as consumers, we are receiving the best possible deal.
Scope and scale
The most recent data published by telecoms regulator Ofcom in July 2019 reported that there were 83.9 million active mobile phone subscriptions in the UK, in the first quarter of 2019.
In the same 3-month time period, UK fixed-telephony lines (landline telephones) generated a massive 10.3 billion minutes of calls, over 31.9 million lines.
Although both figures are slight decreases in previous years, this demonstrates the growing ‘telephony’ aspect of this sector.
These facts, along with 26.7 million fixed broadband connections (an increase of 502,000, or 1.9% on the same quarter of the previous year) demonstrates the scope and scale of the UK telecommunications sector, and our increasing interaction via telephone and internet-based methods of communication.
Loyalty penalty impact
As reported in last week’s article – “Consumer Detriment, Harm and Vulnerability: The Often-Overlooked Casualties”, regulators are working with service providers to ensure that consumer harm is not exacerbated for those demonstrating loyalty to companies.
This includes the regulator Ofcom, who along with several other industry regulators, are putting codes of best-practise in place to encourage effective competition between the main players in the telecommunications field.
By encouraging service providers to provide the same deals to all of their customers, regardless of their length of time as customers, they hope to reduce occurrences of the so-called ‘loyalty penalty’ which sees many long-standing customers put at a financial disadvantage in comparison to newer consumers receiving a similar, if not better service.
This is a work-in-progress and will take time to get all consumer organisations and companies on board.
What can we do as consumers in the meantime?
With more consumer choice and conflicting information out there, sometimes ensuring that our packages and device plans are kept as competitive as possible isn’t as easy as it should be in theory.
At consumeradvice.scot, we have put together our top tips for ensuring that you get the best deal from your telecommunication providers – whether that is the TV that you are watching or the mobile that you are carrying in your pocket –
- Shop around for the best deal – Look at introductory offers warily and always consider the small print.
- Don’t be a victim of the ‘Loyalty Penalty’ – remember if you are not getting a service or deals at a similar price to new consumers, it may be time to change supplier.
- Sleep on any purchases – Do you need that upgrade or could a sim-only contract on your mobile phone for a while save you a fortune? Try not to make impulsive decisions.
- Shop around for insurance – Remember that the insurance being offered by the suppliers of your devices don’t always offer the best deals – use comparison sites to find lower-cost alternatives.
- Be wary of added extras – Check additional call costs and for potential additional costs over and above the package you are paying for. Ensure that what’s included meets your needs.
If you would like more advice on any consumer matter, or need to report a scam or underhand trading tactics, you can contact consumeradvice.scot on 0808 164 6000. We are open 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday. You can follow us on social media – Twitter: @advicedotscot and Facebook at www.facebook.com/advice.scot, Instagram: @advice.scot, or get ahead by visiting our knowledge centre at www.consumeradvice.scot.