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Virgin Media O2 Exposes Competitor Overcharging: Is the Smartphone Swindle Real?

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UK operator group Virgin Media O2 has recently accused its competitors, including EE, Vodafone, and Three, of overcharging their postpaid mobile customers due to confusing mobile contracts. Virgin Media O2 sent out ‘secret shoppers’ to analyze the consumer experience of purchasing a phone and service contract from its competitors, referring to the process as the “Smartphone Swindle”.

The secret shoppers were tasked with determining if they could buy a phone and service contract separately, something Virgin Media O2 calls “split contracts.” However, none of the shoppers were able to sign up for a split contract with EE. On the other hand, Vodafone offered split contracts in all its stores, and Three provided them in 80% of their locations, with both operators also having them available online.

Gareth Turpin, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Media O2, stated, “It’s time for the industry to end this half a billion-pound problem by providing consumers with choice, consistency, and clarity on their phone contracts.” Turpin’s remarks were unrelated to a competition but rather aimed at increasing awareness of a key consumer issue and pressing others to help address it.

While Vodafone and Three seem to be freely offering split contracts, the question of not automatically reducing the tariff after the contract expires is still raised, as this would benefit the customer financially. Virgin Media O2 has received praise for including opposing views from its competitors in its recent release. EE, in particular, claims that its EE Flex Pay offers split contracts, though searching online for it yields no results.

In conclusion, Virgin Media O2 seems to be pushing for transparency in the mobile industry and driving its competitors to improve their practices. There is potential for a more consumer-friendly mobile industry if operators work together to address issues such as overcharging and unclear contracts.

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