Twenty years ago, it was inconceivable that the most important item most people would possess would be a mobile phone. Flash forward to the present and smartphones are such an entrenched part of our lives, it’s hard to think about life without them.
The vast majority of people carry about what is essentially a super compact computer in their pockets or bags. And increasingly we’re using our phones to pay for things. It’s predicted that a quarter of the population will be paying for goods and services using ‘digital wallets’ and other phone-based payment systems within two years.
Yet most people don’t realise that their actual mobile phone bill can be used to pay for goods too. And often it’s for things you neither need nor want.
Paying through your phone bill
You can pay for a range of subscription services through your phone bill, like digital content, gaming services, music and film streaming and more. In the past, it’s been easy to sign up to these services – but not so easy to notice how expensive they are or even realise you’re being billed.
Because we’ve all been ‘encouraged’ to get online bills, most people don’t check what they’re paying for each month – which unwanted payments can slip under the radar.
One of the biggest sources of complaint involve premium text charges. If you enter a ‘text to win’ TV competition or sign up for a free offer from a firm on the understanding they’ll text you every now and then, you might have unwillingly found yourself being billed up to £5 for a spate of spam text messages that you don’t want.
In addition, Apple, Google, the big streaming services and many other businesses can charge you for services you’ve signed up to online through your mobile phone bill. Yet I have many concerns about how easy it is to sign up for something that over time can bill you hundreds of pounds.
If you spot charges for texts that you haven’t authorised, then fear not. There’s a regulator for this industry – the Phone-paid Services Authority. They introduced rules to stop these excessive charges including:
How to deal with charges on your phone bill
Here are a few tips on how to deal with unexpected charges on your phone bill.
First off, don’t ignore your bill. It’s likely that the majority of people affected by unexpected phone charges don’t know it. The charges might not stand out if you pay by direct debit and your monthly bill varies. Get into the habit of scanning through your bill and questioning unexpected charges.
Set an online password you’ll remember. Lots of us don’t check our bills because we’ve opted for online billing but can’t remember our log in details. Get your mobile provider to resend or reset the information, set a password you’ll remember and check each month.
Be sceptical. Don’t trust ‘text in’ premium rate competitions numbers which can ‘mine’ your details. If you want to donate to a charity, check online to find out how you can make a regular payment that you can control.
Make a complaint to your mobile phone company. If you explain that you haven’t authorised the payments, the business should block the charges and should consider a refund. Failing that, you can take a complaint about a mobile phone provider to the ombudsman if they’ve failed to help you with your dispute.
Even though it’s a drag, we all need to take back control of our online bills. It only takes a few minutes, but you could save hundreds of pounds – and perhaps get a hefty refund too.
Need help with a phone bill? Get it sorted with Resolver: www.resolver.co.uk