Mobile operators face Oftel tariff clampdown

Telecoms regulator Oftel will force the UK’s mobile phone networks to simplify call tariffs so that consumers can compare prices between companies, if the operators do not do so voluntarily.

The watchdog launched a year-long review of the mobile phone industry in July. This week it has set out proposals for monitoring prices of mobile calls as part of that process. The first results will be available in November and quarterly thereafter.

The data will reveal price trends within the market, within a single company and for types of user. But it will not allow price comparisons between companies.

Oftel says the monitoring will help it decide if there is sufficient competition in the mobile phone market to give customers value for money. If not, it may institute price controls.

An Oftel spokesman says: “We will take action if confusion about mobile call charges doesn’t get better. We have asked [the operators] to remove confusion across tariffs and if they don’t simplify the tariffs we may take a more forceful role.”

Telecom Users’ Association spokesman Steve Thorpe says: “Consumers want to know what is the cheapest tariff and would change operator accordingly.

“Tariffs are getting more diverse and confusing, not better,” he adds.

In October comparative pricing information for the UK’s fixed line phone charges will be published for the first time.

The suppliers produced the data in conjunction with Oftel.

Mobile phone charges are difficult to compare because the final cost of a call varies according to tariff and time of day and frequency.

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