Have you got a mobile? Mobile phone, that is. The question is almost rhetorical actually, as the latest figures reveal that 93 per cent of UK adults own one and that in total there are more than 80 million of them in this country alone.
So if you lose it when you’re out – and around 300,000 are reported lost or stolen to the police every year – it’s a huge inconvenience at best, and very often a source of fury and frustration. Worse – much worse – it sometimes comes with a nasty sting in the tail: a huge bill that lands on your doormat because the new ‘owner’ has used it for who-knows-what, and you’re being asked by the phone company to pick up the tab. And too often that tab can run to thousands of pounds.
Everyone agrees it’s a miserable state of affairs and all the more so because it’s ordinary people that, through no fault of their own, are the ones paying the price.
So something needs to be done, and I’m very pleased to say that we’ve done it. The Government has brokered a deal with the ‘Big 5’ mobile networks – EE, O2, Three, Virgin Media and Vodafone – to bring in protection for their 27 million customers on monthly contracts. The plan is that, if your phone gets lost or stolen and you report it to the police within 24 hours, the companies will cap your liability at just £100, regardless of how high the thieves and their cronies have run up your bill in the meantime.
This is good work by the mobile networks who are taking their responsibilities to their customers seriously, realising they need some peace of mind when things go wrong in this way. I know some have questioned why the cap isn’t zero. I hope that in time the cap will be lowered further, but mobile phone users need to do their part by doing simple things like setting a PIN on their phones, or installing a tracker App, and always telling the police the moment their phone goes missing.
And of course it’s always sensible to make sure your phone is covered by an insurance policy as well – the phone companies can’t be expected to replace the handset free of charge after it’s lost or stolen.
So this is good news for everyone with a mobile phone. The mobile makes life easier and more enjoyable for us all in our busy lives; and although there’s no way that anyone can make losing it any less maddening, at least now – thanks to Government working with the industry and consumer groups – it won’t come hand-in-hand with a monster bill.