Industry Research : Thousands in Debt Over their Mobile Phone Bills
In a technology-led age the smartphone is considered one of life’s essentials. But the cost of paying for these mini mobile computers is plunging thousands into debt, it has been revealed.
The Money Advice Trust (MAT) dealt with 17,766 calls to its National Debtline about telephone debt problems last year. This represented a three-fold increase from 2007 – the year the iPhone was launched.
The national charity is on course to deal with record calls this year with 13,389 between January and August, a 15 per cent increase on the same period a year ago.
And phone debt is the reason behind 11 per cent of all helpline calls, compared to 4 per cent six years ago.
According to Ofcom around two-fifths of UK adults own a smartphone. The highest monthly rates for the latest and most expensive iPhones are around £57 and the phones sold on their own can cost more than £500.
A family-of-four could easily be paying at least £140 a month for mobiles, more than the average energy bill, said MAT.
Chief executive Joanna Elson said: ‘Smartphones have in many ways revolutionised our lives, but we’ve certainly been made to pay for the privilege.’
The advent of the iPhone saw a revolution in high-performing and increasingly expensive phones, which for 42 per cent of people is their sole internet access point.
MAT said 15 per cent of those in telephone debt using their advice service owed more than £1,000 on their phone bills.
Miss Elson said: ‘Smartphones are sold without contracts for upwards of £500, which would prohibit many from getting one.
‘But with a contract the upfront cost all but disappears, to be replaced by a monthly fee incorporating much of the phone’s usage costs as well.
‘When people fall foul of that fee, they can find themselves with a growing debt problem. The figures suggest this is happening with more people taking out expensive smartphone contracts.’
She said consumers should only take on what they are ‘able to afford’ and creditors have a ‘duty of responsible lending to make sure that borrowers in financial difficulty are treated with understanding and forbearance’.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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